Hands and Hearts For Africa
I had an enjoyable evening at the Richmond Hill United Church sharing good food and music with neighbours. The Grandmothers for Africa hosted their Hands and Hearts for Africa Sock Hop in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation – great music, a great cause, and great company!
Me to We Day 3
A full house of guests at the theatre experienced the 3rd Me to We Day celebration in Richmond Hill last month. Inspritational messages about how people, especially young people, can work to make the world a better place were delivered by a variety of speakers and performers. I loved the message that – we all have gifts that we can give – some gifts will have a global impact, some impact just our corner of the world, but all of these efforts are important! One of the really important guest speakers, pictured to the left, was Craig Keilburger. Mr. Keilburger, when he was in Elementary School, started the organization, Free the Children. Since that time, he and his group have created a better world for many people in many countries across the world – not bad for a young kid from Thornhill!
Chinese New Year Celebrations
There were many Chinese New Year Celebrations during this past month in our Town marking the arrival of the Year of the Rooster. I have had the pleasure of attending a number of them this year. One of these celebrations was MPP Reza Moridi’s (pictured to the left). Kung Hei Fat Choi to all!
Council Passes Downtown Secondary Plan
Council recently passed the Downtown Secondary Plan after many years of work and deliberation. This work included extensive public and stakeholder consultations dating back to 2008. This plan lays out a clear vision and framework related to how we want to see our Village Core redevelop, and most importantly, at the same time, revitalize. This vision that is central to this document reflects a vibrant, pedestrian friendly, commercial and residential area, that respects and celebrates the Village Core’s existing heritage assets.
The plan is multifaceted and speaks to many aspects of development in the area. One of the more interesting themes in this plan is the eventual addition of laneways, courtyards and access points to areas behind the existing buildings that are currently not accessible to the public. This means that the “back” areas of buildings can be available for the public to park, walk in, and enjoy amenities like cafes and public art. I believe that this plan will create a vibrant space for residents and the shopping public, while at the same time, creating opportunities to create additional interesting, vibrant, and quality retail and service opportunities for local businesses.
There was some resistance from some land owners to this plan, but in the end I am comfortable with the aspect of the plan that restricts development in the central core of the village to a lower density than what would be allowed under this plan to the north and to the south of the Village Core area.
I have written a number of previous articles on this issue, One of these articles can be found here. You can also view the final plan here. I am excited by the possibilities that this plan provides for our community and I have no doubt that the Downtown Secondary Plan will represent the next step towards providing additional and much needed revitalization of this important, historic, and central part of Richmond Hill.
Council Passes 2017 Richmond Hill Operating Budget
At a Special Council Meeting on February 28, Richmond Hill Council approved the 2017 Operating Budget along with the 2017 capital asset sustainability fee. The fee, first introduced in 2016 to ensure the municipality has the funds to repair and maintain infrastructure such as roads, parks and buildings, will increase to $30 per tax account in 2017.
The Operating Budget includes an increase to the Town’s Fire and Emergency Services budget to hire eight additional firefighters and a Fire Prevention Inspector. Richmond Hill’s newly adopted Fire Master Plan identified a need to increase the total number of firefighter positions to meet best practice standards as set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
“There is much more than monetary value in the services that taxes pay for,” said Mayor Dave Barrow. “Our budget this year has a focus on safety, which includes funding for our new firefighters to respond to our growing, more urban community. We’re also investing in the library and other key staff positions to provide the services and facilities that residents value.”
The $161.99 million Operating Budget will result in a 4.39 per cent increase to the municipal portion of the total property tax bill, which includes a 1.46 per cent increase for Fire and Emergency Services. Richmond Hill is also responsible for collecting taxes on behalf of others. The municipal portion only accounts for approximately one quarter of the total tax bill. When combined with the Region of York and school board impacts to the tax bill, Richmond Hill residents will see an overall tax rate increase of 2.6 per cent. This is equal to $171.93 in property taxes on an average home assessed at $856,300.
The implementation of Richmond Hill’s Asset Management Plan is also a feature of the 2017 Operating Budget. Richmond Hill has $1.85 billion in infrastructure assets that need to be maintained for the safe use of residents. Investment in a Manager and Project Manager for Asset Management Planning will ensure Richmond Hill’s assets are managed for the long-term in the most cost-effective way.
“This budget came together over time with a lot of discussion and consideration,” said Budget Chair, Regional & Local Councillor Brenda Hogg. “It reflects the priorities of the community and our needs for the future – such as maintaining our services and infrastructure and ensuring our funding sources are fully sustainable.”
The 2017 Operating Budget provides for new programs and services including the Richmond Hill Arts Awards, Canada 150 Celebrations and the development of Richmond Hill’s first Comprehensive Zoning By-law, which is a Planning Act requirement. New staff positions will also be added to improve service delivery including a Director of By-law Licensing and Enforcement, Manager of Economic Development, a By-law Enforcement Officer and an Access and Privacy Coordinator. The new Oak Ridges Library, which is expected to open before the end of 2017, will include a new Children’s Librarian and Systems Specialist to ensure a smooth transition to the new, larger space.
Council also approved the 2017 Water, Wastewater and Stormwater budget. The nine per cent increase on water and wastewater takes effect April 1, 2017 and represents the exact increase York Region will charge Richmond Hill for these services. The nine per cent increase to the Stormwater Management Rate will increase the annual rate to $62.24 for residential properties.
At the February 28 meeting, Council also increased the Seniors’ Tax Assistance Grant to $377 per eligible applicant. Approval of the Operating Budget and Water, Wastewater and Stormwater budget is the final phase of Budget 2017, a public process which included a business community information session in October 2016, a public information session in January at the Central Library, four Budget Committee of the Whole meetings and a short video, “How Richmond Hill’s Budget Works” which was posted on Richmondhill.ca and shared through social media. Council previously approved the 2017 Capital Budget of $61.8 million in November 2016.
“We work hard to find efficiencies and operating savings, including core service reviews and service improvement initiatives,” said Mayor Barrow. “Town staff also look for revenue sources other than taxation, which only accounts for 66 per cent of our 2017 Operating Budget.
“Visit RichmondHill.ca/Budget for more information about Richmond Hill’s 2017 Budget, including a tax calculator, infographics, departmental draft budgets and presentations.