Whitby releases 2022 budget proposal with higher taxes for public consultation
Published January 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm
The Town of Whitby has released a proposed budget for 2022, about two per cent higher than last year’s, funded by a property tax hike for homeowners of 11 cents a day, citing “the delivery of important services residents rely on every day.”
The Town decided on the hike of a $40 a year per household in November, amid a staffing shortage in the organization that has led to difficulties providing municipal services.
In the Special Council meeting when the hike was decided, Whitby Chief Administration Officer Matt Gaskell stressed the importance of the 2022 budget as the last the current council will decide on before the election this fall.
“The budget that is ultimately approved,” he said, “will be very important and meaningful in the legacy that is left by this council.” Whitby’s councillors pushed hard for reforms to town services when they took office in 2017.
Whitby operates with a “very lean” workforce, according to Gaskell, which is now strained by the workload brought on by delivering services and new projects undertaken by council.
A survey of town staff conducted prior to the November meeting found the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in three-quarters saying they were working overtime, 70 per cent reported worsened mental health and more than half reported worsened physical health since the pandemic began. “We run the very real risk of burning staff out,” Gaskell said.
However, this hard work from staff has resulted in a satisfied community with 75 per cent of resident respondents to a survey around the same time saying they enjoyed the quality of town services and their quality of life in town.
Those respondents were increasingly worried about the cost of those services however, with more than half saying they were “uncomfortable” with the existing taxes.
Describing reaching “critical mass,” of the town’s workload, Gaskell said, “I believe we have reached that threshold. Without continued investment in new staffing, I do not believe the current staff is able to meet the current service levels.” He estimates an increase of 15 staffers a year is needed to keep current service levels, but with the Regional population expected to nearly double in the next decade, the Town will eventually need more.
Last year Zoocasa ranked Whitby has having the 17th highest taxes of 35 polled Ontario cities. While the Town fell in the mid-range of the ranking, it was the second-costliest in Durham Region behind only Oshawa, which is also eyeing a tax hike.
Only about 3 per cent of all taxes paid to the government go into Town coffers. Most goes the the federal and provincial level, and 5 per cent goes the the Regional level.
Whitby residents have until February 9 to review the proposal through ConnectWhitby and share feedback with the town. There is a virtual public meeting scheduled for February 7 as well for residents to share their thoughts with council. Delegates have until noon that day to register for an appearance.
Council will decide on the final budget on February 17.
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