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Richmond Hill Approves Budget - February 28, 2006

Contact: Ward 2 Councillor Arnie Warner, Budget Committee of the Whole Chair, (905) 771-2535

RICHMOND HILL BUDGET APPROVED

RICHMOND HILL – The Town of Richmond Hill Council approved their 2006 budget, resulting in a tax increase of 4.8 per cent and ensuring that a number of suggestions made by the residents during the new public consultative process were accommodated.

Back in November 2005, Council encouraged residents to be part of the budget process by seeking their input for the first time ever.

“We listened to our residents and we’ve delivered. We heard from residents on what matters most to them as members of the community and this budget honours that,” said Budget Chair, Councillor Arnie Warner.

Despite the growing financial pressures the Town faces this year, the Budget Committee responded by increasing financial aid to seniors, continuing its commitment to environmental initiatives and reviewing animal control options, including a feasibility study.

The 2006 budget translates roughly into an extra 13 cents per day or less than $50 per year in property taxes for the average home assessed at $384,000.

The largest financial pressures facing the Town this coming year are staff-related costs including benefits; insurance costs; growth and inflation; and the full year costs of operating the newly renovated Richvale Community Centre and the new Richmond Green Public Library.

“Aside from capital expenditures, the largest single part of the budget can be attributed to staff-related costs. However, it’s important to note that, since 2000, the Town has experienced a 25 per cent population growth, but only a 10 per cent increase in staff to respond to our residents’ needs, continuing to demonstrate efficient and effective municipal operations,” said Acting Mayor Dave Barrow. “We are conscientious of our requirement to deliver all services in the most cost-effective manner possible.”

Council also announced that they will double the amount granted to all qualifying seniors through the Seniors’ Tax Assistance program to $200 annually.

“This is one way to say ‘thank you’ to the folks who have contributed to the community their whole lives and acknowledging the financial pressures many of them face being on a fixed income,” said Councillor Warner. “I am very pleased with Council’s decision to increase the grant to these citizens.”
 
As requested at the public input session, Council will continue its commitment to protecting the natural environment by introducing a pesticide reduction program and a wildlife management plan, expanding the Healthy Yards initiative, as well as directing staff to continue to pursue the ISO 14001 designation for its Environmental Management Systems.

Some of the major projects that the Town will undertake with the funding from the 2006 budget include: development on the new downtown performing arts theatre; a new, one-window customer service centre aimed at providing improved access to service and information; and work to begin on a fully accessible park at Crosby Park.

The budget also means work will begin on a new community centre for the Oak Ridges area, an expansion to Bayview Hill Community Centre will proceed, defibrillators will be installed at six town facilities, and two new parks will be constructed including more recreation space for multi-use sport fields.

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