Welland finds unexpected cost hikes in switch to regional transit


Published January 27, 2023 at 12:36 pm

While in favour of a single region-wide transit service, Welland was always cautious in the lead-up process last year, asking for the particulars when it came to cost break-downs.

At a special council meeting on Jan. 25, their worst fears came to light.

In a staff report, they discovered an estimated 31 per cent cost increase in 2023 over 2022,  an increase discovered in the Niagara Regional Transit (NRT) proposed 2023 budget.

“On several occasions, we asked for updates on the proposed financial model and capital costs, because we wanted to ensure we knew the impact on the Welland taxpayer,” said Welland Mayor Frank Campion.

“As a Council, we have always supported the integration of a consolidated transit system, but an increase to the Welland taxpayer by 30 per cent is unacceptable and does not reflect what was proposed during the triple majority vote.”

Welland has learned that during the development of the proposed 2023 budget by the NTC, two new allocation methods were introduced: a Municipal Direct Allocation and the One-Time Special Levy.

With regards to the Municipal Direct Allocation, the NRT budget identifies a levy of $5,699,974 assessed against St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland – the municipalities that all had their own independent transit services already in place.

The portion of that directed at Welland totals $1,275,000. That particular levy was tied to the lower-tier municipalities’ utilization of Gas Tax funding and Safe restart funding in 2022 operating budgets to offset fare box revenue losses due to COVID-19.

As well as that, the NRT budget identified a one-time special levy of $1,931,540 assessed against St. Catharines,
Niagara Falls, and Welland.

Welland’s portion of that was $287,767 and the levy is related to future post-retirement benefits for existing transit employees, which would be placed into a reserve fund in 2023 for future use.

While there is no financial impact to the city, the increases will hit Welland residents through the regional portion of their 2023 property taxes.

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