Photo: Deputy Budget Chief Isa Lee, Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti and Budget Chief Andrew Keyes celebrate the scaled-back budget increase of 3 per cent.
Due to a fall election that delayed usual budget processes and a complicated dance around provincial legislations that threatened to significantly alter how municipalities acquired financing, the 2023 Markham budget didn’t get approved until April 5.
There has been much hand-wringing from council as to how to make up for projected losses of development charges and other related sources. That question hasn’t been decided yet as talks with the province will continue. What is clear, budget chief Andrew Keyes and Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti pointed out at the official unveiling of the plan, is that it will not be on the backs of homeowners.
So, the 5 per cent increase recommended by planning staff that included a 2 per cent provision to cover projected losses will not happen and council settled on a much more saleable 3 per cent increase to property owners. That includes a 2.4 per cent increase in day-to-day operations and a 0.6 per cent increase in infrastructure investment.
Councillor Keyes noted that “the 2023 Budget continues to fulfil the city’s strategic goal of fiscal stewardship of money and resources. It is a budget that not only delivers on the needs of our community today but ensures we are planning and saving for the future. It is a fiscally responsible budget that preserves our high quality of facilities and services to ensure Markham continues to be a vibrant, successful and sustainable city.”
York Region will also tack on a 3.9 per cent increase and an increase in wastewater fees will now boost the property tax bill for the average property value of $829,995 by approximately $183.92 this year.
But while 2023 was an unusually tough budget to negotiate, next year might be tougher with city staff estimating that increases over the next five years may need to yield increases of over 80 per cent on current amounts.
Keyes offered that in order to get city budgeting back on track and okay next year’s budget by the end of the year as is usually the goal, planning for 2024 will be starting almost immediately.
“As the new council term has begun, staff will resume the normal cycle for the 2024 Budget process which means that the 2024 Budget will be approved by December of this year as well,” said Keyes.
The mayor was quick to add that he is optimistic the province will come through with funding of some kind before those frightening scenarios are realized.
“I really do believe in my heart of hearts,” said Scarpitti, “that in the provincial goal to build 1.5 million homes in the next decade, it was not their intention to destabilize the financial (position) of municipalities. That said, we’ve got some work to do and we’ll continue to do it.”
For information on the $669M budget, visit markham.ca/budget.