As a member of the Budget Committee, I can report that it is always difficult for us to decide which projects proceed in a budget year and which must be postponed to other years. During the process of setting budgets and establishing tax rates Council is always in the position of balancing residents' desire to maintain existing assets (e.g. roads, recreation complex, libraries) and undertaking new projects (e.g. sidewalks, arenas, playgrounds), while at the same time trying to minimize increases to property taxes. Although we would always like to proceed with more projects as early as possible, I am pleased that with what we have been able to accomplish with the funds available while also maintaining Pickering's position of having the lowest tax rates of the lakeshore municipalities in Durham Region.
There's a new look in Downtown Pickering. Construction nears completion on Pickering's landmark pedestrian bridge. Spanning 250 metres across Highway 401, Canada's busiest highway, this fully enclosed bridge will be accessible to both pedestrians and cyclists.
December saw the final truss installed, connecting the bridge to another downtown landmark. A 132,000 square foot, LEED Silver office tower supported by a 500 stall GO parking deck is now the new home of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. Filling out the tenancy is Ontario Power Generation.
To complete the office tower, the City is now reviewing plans for the Pickering Learning Centre - a two storey, 10,000 square-foot post secondary school facility, developed through a partnership between Durham College and Centennial College. Programs are planned to commence in the fall of 2012.
DURHAM -- Lane restrictions will affect motorists through much of July.
One restriction is at the intersection of Taunton and Brock roads in Pickering. The restrictions are in effect until July 22 to allow for road resurfacing. Also, weather permitting, milling and paving operations are to be done between 7 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. on July 14, 18 and 19.
The other restriction is in Oshawa, along a portion of Taunton from Simcoe Street to Ritson Road.
Road rehabilitation and resurfacing work is taking place and the restrictions will be in place until Aug. 22.
To cause as little disruption to traffic as possible, milling and paving operations will be done from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday to Thursday until the work is complete.
At both sites, motorists should expect delays and they're also asked to be extra cautious while travelling there.
Unfavourable weather could lengthen the time of the restrictions.
PICKERING -- Residents will see a property tax hike of 2.99 per cent this year.
Nearly one month after 2011 budget talks began, Pickering council has approved the budget, meaning homeowners living in a semi-detached home assessed at $350,970 will pay about $31 more this year, or $1,317.
Staff originally proposed 4.75 per cent on March 10, and then 3.56 per cent. When most councillors still found it too high, Mayor Dave Ryan challenged them to bring a list of budget items to cut to the next meeting.
Ward 2 City Councillor Doug Dickerson and Ward 1 Regional Councillor Jennifer O'Connell met the challenge, both offering a list of about $250,000 of cuts on April 4, to bring the tax ratio down by about half a percent.
Coun. O'Connell's plan included reductions in the areas of mayor and council salary increases, staff salaries, computer hardware replacements, and the office of sustainability. She said her goal wasn't to come up with a magical number for the tax ratio, but to find ways to make the budget responsible.
Coun. Dickerson's plan included decreasing expenditures in the library and the office of sustainability, and deferring some capital projects, such as a new fire hall sign and new council chamber chairs, to 2012.
His plan also stipulated that if there is a savings on the capital projects in the budget, staff put the deferred items back in on a priority basis.
CAO Tony Prevedel explained Coun. Dickerson's list met the financial target without cutting programs and suggested council go with his plan.
Ward 2 Regional Councillor Bill McLean supported both plans, and felt the two could be combined to reduce the tax increase to 2.5 per cent.
Council ended up taking Mr. Prevedel's advice and supported Coun. Dickerson's work.
Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles pointed out staff and council will scrutinize numbers as projects go forward.
“The scrutiny and the wise spending doesn't end here,”he said.
Despite Coun. O'Connell, Coun. McLean and Ward 3 Regional Councillor Peter Rodrigues voting in opposition, both the $45.6-million current and $25-million capital budgets were passed with four votes.
PICKERING -- After years of planning by the City of Pickering and its partners, an “important piece of the puzzle” on Lake Ontario's waterfront has finally come together, said Pickering-Scarborough East MPP Wayne Arthurs Wednesday.
Despite the unseasonable temperatures and constant downpour of rain, politicians, members of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Pickering staff, students and residents from Pickering and Scarborough wielded their umbrellas at the newly improved Western Gateway near Dyson Road in Pickering Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the new accessible trail.
The Gateway connects Toronto's Port Union Waterfront Park to Bella Vista Drive and Dyson Road in Pickering. Now trail enthusiasts can easily and safely travel from Toronto's waterfront to Pickering's First Nation's Trail, which leads to Monarch Trail and The Peak Trail, making up the 12.2 kilometres of waterfront path in Pickering.
“The connection between the City of Pickering and Toronto being fully accessible is a result of partnerships,” said Mayor Dave Ryan, who called Pickering's waterfront a “shimmering jewel.”
The new addition features a brand new staircase that leads up to Dyson Road from the trail and a new pedestrian bridge perched high above Rouge Beach. The boardwalk-style setting provides an expansive view of Lake Ontario.
Pickering's director of operations and emergency services, Everett Buntsma, has been involved in the project from the beginning and explained the trail used to be made up of asphalt and railway ties for stairs.
“It wasn't inviting at all,” said Mr. Buntsma. “We needed to make it safe, and we needed to make it accessible.”
The Gateway was funded by Pickering and Waterfront Toronto, which has a mandate of revitalizing the waterfront from Mississauga to just beyond the Rouge River.
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which has jurisdiction of nearly 60 kilometres of Lake Ontario waterfront, executed the project.
“Today we can see what the spirit of true collaboration can achieve,” said Gerri Lynn O'Connor, chairwoman of the TRCA.
Larry Field, who recently retired after a long career with the TRCA as manager of government liaisons, said the gateway will greatly complement the area.
“As people come to the mouth of the Rouge, you have great features on both sides,” he said.
Mr. Field said the rehabilitation of the waterfront at Port Union Road, which is currently on the agenda, will also play a strong role in enhancing the trail.
Ward 1 City Councillor Jennifer O'Connell, the chairwoman of the Pickering Waterfront Committee, said the rehabilitation has been a focus of hers since she was first elected and thanked everyone for their hard work.
“I hope you love it as much as I do,” she said.
She also spoke of the significant history of the First Nations people in the area, giving the First Nations Trail its name.
PICKERING -- After years of planning and negotiations, Ajax and Pickering fire dispatch services are going to become one.
Pickering council agreed Monday night that Ajax will provide dispatch services for Pickering Fire Services, and they'll share in the equipment and operating costs.
“This, to be quite honest with you, is very much a win-win situation,” said chief administrative officer Tom Quinn.
Pickering's fire headquarters building was built in 1968 and the dispatch equipment is outdated and in need of replacement. Dispatch, which has also outgrown its space as Pickering's population has grown over the past decade, needs a new building.
However, since the City doesn't have land yet, which could take years to acquire and build on, staff said amalgamation is the only realistic option.
Plans have been in the works for some time. In fact, 12 years ago, Mr. Quinn discussed with the CAO of Whitby the possibility of amalgamating Pickering, Whitby and Ajax fire dispatch services, but the plans were dropped for financial reasons.
Whitby wanted to charge Pickering for a proportionate share of the capital costs of the dispatch facility, whereas Ajax is only asking for Pickering's share of equipment, staffing and operating costs, the staff report said.
“The cost factor is quite significantly low,” Mr. Quinn said.
Acquiring land and building new fire headquarters in Pickering could cost $8 million to $10 million, said Mr. Quinn. The amalgamation will cost Pickering $700,000, which is being funded by the Investing in Ontario Grant.
Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles wanted to make sure the issue will not affect safety in any way.
“This is an increase in safety all the way around,” Mr. Quinn said.
He said dispatch could be located just about anywhere and be just as efficient. Moving dispatch out of the small, outdated Pickering headquarters will free up space for firefighters, and the equipment is the newest technology.
Staff estimates joining the two dispatches will take between six to 10 months just for accumulating and transferring data alone. Pickering plans to complete the change by Jan. 1, 2011
PICKERING -- Despite the consensus that underground hydro wiring around Duffin Heights and Seaton would benefit the community and encourage sustainable development, Council chose to shoot down the initiative.
Ward 2 City Councillor Doug Dickerson introduced a motion Monday night that the City commit to the burying of current overhead wires along Brock Road from just north of Concession 3 to Taunton Road.
He asked council to support the decision that would cost the City in the short term to remove the overhead wiring and install the underground wiring, but would pay for itself in the long run. It would also demonstrate council's forward thinking, he argued.
“The decision here tonight may very well prove to be the watershed decision by which the Province will see and understand our commitment to the notions of sustainability,” he said.
Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles said he likes the idea but would need to see the actual costs and details of how it would be financed before supporting the $3.5-to-$4-million project. Supporting it would require reopening the 2010 budget that was just passed, and maybe raise the tax rate, he said.
“We need to find a way to do this but I am not comfortable we have found it yet,” he said.
Coun. Dickerson said Veridian Corporation would contribute about $850,000.
While he understood concerns about potential short-term financial costs, he pointed out long-term costs would be avoided, such as power failures due to vehicles crashing into overhead line poles and ice storms bringing down the wires. Also, burying them is much more pleasing to the eye and can increase land value on Brock Road.
“In due course when these lands are sold, the City will recoup all, or more, of the investment we are making tonight on our future,” he said. “View it as a down payment.”
He suggested looking at ways to reduce the costs, such as selling some of Pickering's land in the area, or even finding a different company that could do the work for less.
While Mayor Dave Ryan agreed with Coun. Dickerson's vision to embark on a ground-breaking change, he felt the financial risks were too high.
“Councillor, you're absolutely right, the right thing is to bury wires,” he said. “The wrong thing to do is bury to the municipality in the process.”
Ward 1 Regional Councillor Bonnie Littley tried to refer the decision to a later date in order to gather more input and a financial strategy. But since development is fast approaching along Brock Road, council chose to vote on the matter and Coun. Dickerson's motion was lost
PICKERING -- Pickering residents will officially pay an extra one per cent on their property tax bill to fund Pickering's legal battle with York Region.
The additional tax will cost the average homeowner an extra $10 on their bill. The property tax increase, before the $420,000 set aside for legal costs, would have been 2.9 per cent to cover operational costs, the lowest Pickering residents have seen since 2001, Mayor Dave Ryan noted.
“Once again Pickering is the lowest taxed municipality of the five lakeshore municipalities across Durham Region,” he said.
The 3.9-per cent increase represents an extra $39.42 on the local portion of the bill for an average Pickering home valued at $340,750. The local portion represents 27 per cent of property taxes, with the rest going to the Region of Durham and to the Province for education.
Pickering accuses York of failing to properly consult residents on its proposed odour control facility to accommodate the expansion of the pipe that takes York's raw sewage to Pickering for treatment. Although York eventually changed plans to put the facility just over York-Durham Townline Road, it did so without consulting residents or council.
Council unanimously passed the $21.2-million capital budget and the current budget of $72 million, Monday night, including the tax increase.
Residents who attended the meeting were grateful for council's decision. Many fear the possible odours and health risks from the facility.
Pickering resident John Murray told council he's found an average of 282.8 megalitres of York's sewage per day were treated in 2008 at Pickering's Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant, and added that will only increase. He also fears for the possible ramifications of the meeting of three large pipes close to his home at Valley Farm Road and Finch Avenue, which will come along with the expansion.
“I don't like paying taxes but in this case it's important to pay more because it's such a big matter,” he said.
Ward 2 City Councillor Doug Dickerson was skeptical about the legal battle, saying Pickering's chance to win is quite slim, and costs will be higher than anticipated, especially since the City has already paid $230,000 in legal fees.
“There's a huge price,” he said. “A lot larger than what we're looking at tonight.”
Pickering resident Peter Rodrigues disagreed.
“When Pickering is successful with our legal actions, we will recoup our legal costs, and this is highly likely because three independent, expert environmental lawyers have clearly said this is the expected outcome based on the numerous facts and the law,” he told council.
Ward 1 City Councillor Jennifer O'Connell said if Pickering doesn't fight the battle now, it could face even more costs down the road, such as possible repairs if the pipe breaks down and York drags its feet.
“I feel quite confident that we have a very good case,” she said.
Meanwhile York Region's commissioner of environmental services, Erin Mahoney, said the increase is a waste of taxpayers' dollars in a time where most are using fiscal restraint.
“Our experts are saying the costs could be well over $1 million on both sides,” she said, adding York is fully prepared to challenge the City to recoup York's legal costs since it expects to win.
Ms. Mahoney was surprised by Pickering's legal action, arguing York did consult Pickering residents, and is even paying $20 million for the odour control facility to be moved to York, rather than the $10 million it would have cost to keep it in Pickering.
Municipal governments across Durham are busy putting the final touches on their budgets for the year and, not surprisingly, they are passing along property tax increases.
It would appear that the old adage about death and taxes is proven once again.
And the response among tax-burdened homeowners is uniformly predictable. We're conditioned to despise taxes, especially when they are on the rise. And politicians tend to hide behind rhetoric, or distance themselves from the debates and decisions, which do a disservice to the people they represent.
The bottom line is that property tax increases in Durham's municipalities are modest this year, while the Durham Region portion of the property tax bill is going up a palatable 2.15 per cent.
But before you get out the placards and plan a local protest, consider what you get in return: safe and well-maintained roads, a skilled and professional police force, highly trained paramedics that respond to emergencies on a moment's notice, well-funded fire departments, municipal swimming pools, hockey rinks, parks, new schools and more.
These are the things we demand in Durham Region and we elect the men and women who serve on municipal and regional councils to ensure that we get them.
Durham's municipalities are, for the most part, well managed and the guardians of the public purse do their level best to balance those obligations against the costs associated with programs and services. Certainly there have been some bad decisions made along the way, and some furious backtracking on poorly conceived policies, but the economic truth is that it costs a little more every year to maintain the status quo, to live up to the expectations taxpayers set.
By way of comparison, the City of Toronto, despite annual property tax increases that have hovered around four per cent for several years, faces an operating budget deficit of approximately $375 million as it prepares its fiscal blueprint for the coming year.
This is not to suggest that Durham Region taxpayers should celebrate higher taxes.
But demanding lower taxes and wider roads, or lower taxes and more police officers, or lower taxes and new community centres, is fiscal folly. It's both inconsistent and not sustainable.
Better to introduce incremental increases that are fair enough to ensure snowy roads are plowed in a timely fashion, and that firefighters will come equipped with the best tools if they are called upon, than to risk deep cuts and reduced services.
That's when you'd see the placards and the protests.
DURHAM -- As the 2010 budget season swings into full gear, politicians will be carefully framing their tax increases in order to sell them to voters.
If previous years are any indication, expect claims of X municipality had the lowest tax increase, Y municipality has the lowest tax rate and so on. An honest look at proposed tax increases demands a look at where they started from.
There are three components to the property tax bill: local taxes, Regional taxes, and the education tax levied by the Province. The education tax rate is the same for all Durham homes. The Regional rate varies based on number of hours of Durham Region Transit service and waste service in each municipality. Whitby and Oshawa collect their own waste while the Region collects it in the rest of the municipalities. The disposing, including recycling, and processing of the waste is a Regional responsibility.
Water and sewer rates are paid for by the people who use those services, on their water and sewer bills. For example, if you live in rural Pickering and have a well, your tax dollars do not go towards the operation or upgrade of water treatment plants in Durham.
In the sidebar, readers can find the 2009 residential tax rate for Durham's eight municipalities. In brackets I've listed how much that would cost for a home valued at $200,000. Each municipality has a different average assessment for homes, so I arbitrarily selected $200,000 for a simple comparison that allows for simple math if folks want to estimate their own home's taxes. The figures do not factor in the reassessment cycle which can lower or increase the actual rates, so there may be slight differences in the actual property tax bills.
To demonstrate why the 2009 starting points are important, let's look at some actual municipal examples.
The City of Oshawa has passed a 0.9-per cent tax increase, which may or may not end up being the lowest in Durham. Without factoring in changes due to assessments, this increase would bring its local rate up to 0.747833 per cent, bringing the total local taxes on that $200,000 home to $1,495.67, a $13 increase.
Meanwhile, Ajax passed a 2.75-per cent tax rate increase, bringing the tax rate to 0.399580 per cent for a total of $799.16 on that $200,000 home, a $21 increase.
So, a bigger tax rate increase for Ajax residents, but a much smaller total tax bill on that $200,000 home. And although the Ajax rate increase is three times that of Oshawa, the actual dollar increase is less than double.
Ajax councillors have said that they've had the lowest average tax rate increase of any municipality from 2007 to 2009. But as the 2009 figures show, the municipality with the highest average increase, Pickering, still has the lowest overall rate among lakeshore municipalities.
Ultimately, when it comes to the budget process, taxpayers don't care about percentages and statistics, they care about exactly how much money is coming out of their pockets and that's the number to keep in mind.
The opportunity to celebrate a bicentennial is a special time, but given the economic difficulties faced by many in the community, the City is right to take a modest approach.
Pickering officially turns 200 on March 4, 2011, so there is plenty of lead time to get the bicentennial year just right. On Monday, the City decided to budget $43,000 to beef up existing events and add new ones. But the extra events planned won't go through unless the City can find sponsorships or grants to pay for them.
That's smart thinking on council's part as tax dollars are needed to pay for local essentials and any increase must go to bread, not circuses. The occasion of a 200th birthday celebration should generate some sponsorship opportunities and, with plenty of lead time, some grant money should be available from Queen's Park and Ottawa.
One of the biggest and brightest happenings should take place on July 1, 2011, when the City is planning to have a huge Canada Day celebration. The $25,000 event will only go ahead should grants come through, but the City is hoping to have a Canadian headliner and a swearing-in ceremony for new Canadians.
Much of the cash is needed for branding and marketing purposes over the next year. The City will be looking to work with local groups, such as putting on a speaker series with the Pickering Public Library, a soccer tournament with the Pickering Soccer Club and an Italian heritage multicultural and sporting event put on by the Ajax-Pickering Italian Social Club.
All are great ideas as they involve community-minded local citizens who will be more than happy to spread the word about Pickering's big birthday celebration. The City should do all it can to bring as many clubs and organizations into the big party tent so that a large number of Pickering citizens are directly involved. Not only does it make for a bigger party, it helps to build community spirit, something you can never have enough of.
The usual events that fill the City calendar, like Family Day, Christmas in the Village, the New Year's Eve Family Countdown and the Waterfront Concert Series, will also get the Pickering 200 touch.
Keeping costs down will ensure taxpayers get good bang for their buck but will ensure a suitable year-long celebration recognizing a special birthday.-- Pickering News Advertiser
PICKERING -- In an attempt to attract appropriate development and bring business taxes into the city, City staff is looking to phase in development fees.
“We need to at least look at possible City initiatives, without giving up any dollars due to the City,” said Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles.
Coun. Pickles introduced a motion at the latest council meeting calling for staff to create a development incentive program that will attract more business, jobs and sustainable elements to building in Pickering.
Coun. Pickles pointed out that the foggy financial climate may be making it difficult to secure financing from possible clients who are interested in developing in the city.
Payments such as development charges, building permit fees and payments in lieu of parkland are usually substantial when it comes to large projects. That payment is currently required up-front “and may act as a deterrent to projects getting underway.”
The plan is to still charge the same total amount of fees payable to the City, but to accept them through phased-in payment.
“Incentives may help attract more business, more jobs and lessen taxes on residents,” Coun. Pickles said.
A possible program could include tying the payment to construction progress based on the City's objectives of density, sustainable elements and job creation the project will provide.
Staff will work on the plan and take it to council for approval.
PICKERING -- A project that's been an idea for 13 years is finally becoming a reality after the provincial and federal governments announced significant joint funding Wednesday.
A fully-enclosed pedestrian bridge will connect the Pickering GO station to Pickering Parkway, the Pickering Town Centre, a future office tower and a future transportation hub.
The project will receive $10 million from the provincial and federal governments, local MPs and MPPs announced Wednesday. The bridge will be built and maintained by GO Transit and construction should be complete by March, 2011.
“I think what we have accomplished is the bridge to a sustainable future in downtown Pickering,” said an excited Mayor Dave Ryan in an interview, adding the project won't cost taxpayers or the City anything.
He feels the bridge will be the catalyst for Pickering's long-awaited downtown with its competitive tax rates and its ideal location as the first municipality east of Toronto. He added the drive from Toronto to Pickering offers a reverse commute with less traffic. He envisions businesses, transit and culture thriving in the area, which he calls a “gateway to Durham.”
In its regional transportation plan, the Province has identified that area of Pickering as a transportation hub and an urban growth centre. The project and enhanced transit will not only put Pickering on the map as a place to do business, visit and shop, but it will benefit transit users, said Gary McNeil, executive vice president of Metrolinx and managing director of GO Transit.
“It's going to be a real benefit to our customers to improve access to the station,” he said.
The mayor was first opposed to the idea of a pedestrian bridge from the GO station since it didn't have a destination point. But in April of 2006 he was told by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which currently has an office at Liverpool Road and Pickering Parkway, that more than 200 jobs would be forced to leave Pickering because the company was expanding and there was no space in the City to support the extra jobs. So the mayor contacted 20 Vic Management Inc. (Pickering Town Centre owner) and said he had an ideal tenant in mind if the company wanted to finally build a new office tower on the southwest corner of the PTC parking lot.
“We now had a destination point,” he said.
Back in June, 20 Vic announced it was in fact building an eight-storey, 132,000-square foot office tower, constructed to LEED Silver standards, and the primary tenants would be MPAC. That got the ball rolling for the public-private partnership on the bridge.
“Bringing in GO Transit is in full credit to the mayor,” said George Buckles, principal of 20 Vic. He added GO's involvement is substantial in the development of the downtown core, and the bridge and mobility hub will also benefit the mall's customers and merchants.
It was also announced that GO Transit and 20 Vic are jointly building a parking structure at the base of the building that will increase the tower's height by an additional three storeys and provide more parking for GO customers.
Mayor Ryan hopes the announcement puts at least some criticism to rest.
“For those who say we don't have a downtown I say 'just watch us',” he said.
Pickering, ON, September 10, 2009 - Yesterday, the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario, and GO Transit announced $30 million in key infrastructure investments that will transform downtown Pickering by supporting intensification, urban renewal and public transit.
Through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, the Federal and Provincial governments are committing $5 million each towards the construction of a fully enclosed pedestrian bridge. The $10 million structure will span Highway 401 and connect the Pickering GO Station to a new 132,000 square foot, “Class A”, LEED-Silver office tower in Pickering's downtown precinct. Together, the new pedestrian bridge and office tower will be the most visible examples of sustainability in the entire province. Equally as important, it will create a more cohesive and accessible downtown district.
With funding secured for the pedestrian bridge, GO Transit has committed to building a $20 million parking structure at the base of the office tower. This will result in 500 new parking spaces for the Pickering GO Station - a 25 percent increase in total parking capacity. This will facilitate greater public transit usage without exacerbating traffic congestion in and around the terminal.
The pedestrian bridge and parking facility will be owned and operated by GO Transit, which means it will be also be responsible for all of the construction, operating, and maintenance costs. “I am very pleased with the level of commitment to the City of Pickering expressed by the senior levels of government and the business community,” said Mayor Dave Ryan. “In addition, I am extremely proud that we were able to bring these significant infrastructure projects forward without impacting our residential tax base. It truly is a bridge to our sustainable future.”
While a proposed pedestrian bridge had been in the planning stages for more than a decade, it never had the required support to advance beyond the conceptual stage. However, when the new office tower was announced back in May of this year, it created a small window of opportunity to plan for and incorporate complementary infrastructure. Consequently, Mayor Ryan was actively involved in intense negotiations with a wide array of government ministries and agencies on a daily basis for the past four months. With funding commitments now in place, all three projects will be built concurrently with an estimated completion date of March 2011.
20 Vic Management Inc. is the developer of the new office tower and has been working diligently with the City of Pickering and GO Transit with respect to the pedestrian bridge and parking structure. “I would like to congratulate Mayor Ryan and the City of Pickering. Their vision and tireless efforts have led to this truly defining moment in this young city's history,” said George Buckles, director Leasing & Development, 20 Vic Management Inc. “In conjunction with the Pickering Town Centre, we are proud to be the foundation of Pickering's dynamic and burgeoning downtown core.”
As the gateway to the east GTA, Pickering (population 94,000) is strategically located where Toronto, York and Durham Regions meet and has been recognized by Profit magazine as one of the ten best cities in Canada for growth companies. Pickering's downtown has been named by the Province of Ontario as an Urban Growth Centre and future Anchor Mobility Hub. The City of Pickering is considered a municipal leader in fiscal management, service delivery, sustainability and the environment. In 2008, it received the FCM-CH2M Hill Sustainable Community Planning Award. With its direct access to major highways, educated and skilled labour force, prime employment lands, a world class EN3 (Energy/Environmental/Engineering) sector, and supportive municipal government, Pickering offers unrivalled competitive advantages for business.Media Contact:
As Pickering councillors return to the council table, Mayor Dave Ryan hopes to overcome Pickering's identity crisis.
Pickering has been seen alternately as a service centre, as a home to the Ontario Power Generation nuclear station, or even as a host of the City of Toronto dump sites.
But Mayor Ryan wants to change that with a focus this term on establishing a downtown and setting the groundwork for a Durham West Arts Centre.
While Pickering has a lot of shopping areas, the mayor has long been an advocate for a downtown, which he hopes to establish along Kingston Road.
To coincide with a new downtown, the mayor hopes to get moving on a new arts centre, one he strongly believes should be in Pickering.
“People go to downtown Toronto to the theatre because there isn't anywhere else to go,” he said. In 2004 the City and PineRidge Arts Council got together with other partners to begin the planning for the centre, which the mayor believes will bring jobs to the area and stimulate the economy. It may not be built for five years but the mayor realizes work has to begin now if it is to become a reality.
The two would make a great focal point for a city looking for an identity.
And like many other communities, Pickering has to deal with issues surrounding growth. But in Pickering's case, that growth is massive with the Seaton community planned to be home to 70,000 new people within the next 20 years. Pickering has consistently fought for new jobs to accompany the residential growth and has stated over and over again that one new job must be created for every two new residents. That's a lofty goal but one that makes sense to ensure the city doesn't become more of a bedroom community.
Council will also be faced with a decision to approve a new, third tower at the San Francisco by the Bay residential development. If approved, the tower will provide for a total of 734 units on the site. While area residents are concerned about traffic, the tower is a good fit and should be approved by council.
As we draw nearer to a municipal election year, councillors should stay focused on the job they were elected for, manage growth properly and keep taxes as low as possible.
Pickering residents still pay the least in property taxes of Durham's urban municipalities.
The chart below shows the total 2009 municipal property taxes paid per $289,400 assessment for comparison purposes.
As a member of the Budget Committee, I can report Council is always in the position of balancing residents' desire to maintain existing services (such as programs for our youth, families, and seniors) and assets (such as roads, recreation complex, libraries) and undertaking new projects (such as sidewalks, arenas, playgrounds), while at the same time trying to minimize increases to property taxes. I am pleased with what we have been able to accomplish with the funds available while also maintaining Pickering's position of having the lowest tax rates of the urban municipalities in Durham Region.
How Do Pickering's Taxes Compare?
Who gets your property tax dollars?
Municipal Property Assessment
If you have any questions concerning your property's assessed value, please contact MPAC at 1.866.296.6722, or visit their website at www.mpac.ca
If you feel that the assessment is too high, there are two options available:
In the summer of 2002 residents and I were pleased to participate in the offical opening of the new Pickering Millennium Waterfront Trail, located on the shores of Lake Ontario for Pickering residents to enjoy. It provides many exciting ways to enjoy our waterfront.
The community's past, present and future come together on the Trail, where the story of Pickering is chronicled through art, cultural expression and recreational activities.
Millennium Square, located at the foot of Liverpool Road, provides an idyllic setting for community events and gatherings. The 40-ft. Millennium Tree sculpture, located in the Square, is representative of white pine trees and the shipping industry, both a very important part of Pickering's past. The Trail provides many ways of enjoying the outdoors, with a boardwalk, a water-spray park for youngsters, and refreshment stops.
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