Barrie city councillors approve 2019 budget that focuses on infrastructure and innovation

Outside entrance to Barrie City Hall. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

Barrie city council has approved a $343-million operating budget for 2019.

At their meeting Monday evening, Barrie city councillors approved a budget that they say includes innovative approaches to improve services and $263.6 million in capital spending for infrastructure and growth.

According to a news release issued by the city, the 2019 budget includes a property tax increase of 1.88 per cent, plus a one per cent increase for the dedicated infrastructure renewal fund, which is used to replace and renew the city’s roads, pipes and buildings.

For the average Barrie home assessed at $336,000, the increase translates to an additional $124 annually.

City councillors also approved a 3.44 per cent increase to water rates and a 3.39 per cent increase to wastewater rates.

For a typical home consuming 180 cubic metres of water annually, the water bill will increase by $11.45 and the wastewater bill will increase by $15.86.

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“This budget takes a significant step forward in tackling Barrie’s infrastructure deficit,” said Barrie mayor, Jeff Lehman. “For the second year in a row, we’ve kept the increase to operating costs below two per cent so we can invest more in fixing our infrastructure, facilitating affordable housing and preparing for growth. Yet there are also a lot of innovative projects in this budget that will improve how the City delivers services and save money.”

According to the release, key projects in the 2019 capital budget include the continuation of the Barrie-Simcoe Emergency Services campus, the Harvie Road crossing of Highway 400, the widening of Mapleview Drive East from Country Lane to Yonge Street and the road resurfacing program.

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The 2019 budget includes a $55-million investment into the city’s roads. The city says design work will continue on the new McKay Road interchange at Highway 400, and construction will begin on the rehabilitation of Hurst Drive from Cox Mill to Golden Meadow Road.

Barrie’s waterfront will also see four-season enhancements through additional beach and trail grooming, clean-up and new equipment including benches, picnic tables and fire pits.

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According to the city, the waterfront enhancements will be funded with revenue generated from tourism as a result of the new Municipal Accommodation tax.

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The 2019 budget also includes a number of projects which the city says will save money and improve the way services are delivered.

One project, called the Shift Government project, will aim to tackle the root causes of issues such as public health, the opioid crisis and homelessness within the city.

Other projects will look at the city’s winter road maintenance, city vehicles and a number of other services across city departments.

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