Efforts and achievements in 2020 set positive foundation for the year ahead
Richmond Hill Council is delivering on its commitment to fiscal responsibility and protecting residents from the financial burden of COVID-19. After initially targeting the City’s lowest tax increase in more than 15 years, Council has pushed further, proposing a full property tax freeze in 2021.
The Budget Committee of the Whole approved Richmond Hill’s draft 2021 operating budget today, forwarding it for final approval at the February 10 Council meeting. The budget proposes a 0% tax increase which is achieved without cutting services or using the City’s reserve funds. The draft operating budget also continues to invest in community infrastructure, with contributions to capital reserve funds.
Financial Impact of COVID-19
The Budget Committee of the Whole also received an update on the financial impact of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, Richmond Hill worked to keep costs down while maintaining the services residents needed most, including fire services, road maintenance and waste collection, and supporting economic recovery.
While City revenue in 2020 was $17.6 million less than projected, the mitigating measures implemented by Council and staff, including continuous improvement and service digitization efforts, reduced the overall 2020 deficit to $1.5 million. Federal and Provincial Safe Restart funding will be used to cover the 2020 deficit as municipalities are required by law to balance their budget.
Recognizing 2020 Accomplishments
Despite experiencing a year of unprecedented challenge and a drive to reduce costs, the draft budget acknowledges Council and City staff achieved many positive things for the Richmond Hill community in 2020. In addition to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect the health of staff and residents, Richmond Hill also:
- Provided tax and water bill relief measures to support those experiencing financial hardships
- Implemented the Recover Richmond Hill Action Plan to drive economic recovery and support local businesses
- Opened four new state-of-the-art amenities: the Oak Ridges Library; Ed Sackfield Arena expansion featuring an NHL-sized ice rink, fitness centre and the City’s first indoor walking track; a redeveloped David Hamilton Park; and the 130-metre long Lake Wilcox Boardwalk
- Developed the City’s first Urban Forest Management Plan, which strengthens our ability to manage and maintain a healthy urban forest until 2040
- Planted nearly 10,000 new trees through our award-winning environmental programs
- Adopted the City’s first Climate Change Framework to help lead the way toward a more sustainable future
- Celebrated the first full season of the City-wide snow windrow clearing service, funded through efficiencies in the previous budget
- Introduced Pay Parking at Lake Wilcox Park for non-residents to ensure all park users contribute to maintenance
- Launched new online services, such as building permit and tree permit applications, to modernize operations and improve customer service
- Continued to offer virtual programs and online fitness classes, adapted community events such as virtual Canada Day and drive-thru Santa’s Workshop, and developed new free resources to help residents stay active at home during the pandemic
- Launched an Enterprise Asset Management System to effectively manage the maintenance of the City’s 50,000 traditional infrastructure assets, 45,000 street trees and nearly 700 hectares of natural forest
“Our Council understands how important it is to help protect our residents from bearing the ongoing costs of this pandemic. Council committed to keeping tax increases below the cost of inflation – we worked with City staff not only to achieve that, but to achieve a tax freeze. This is a responsible and manageable budget – one that helps residents today while still investing in the infrastructure we will need tomorrow.” ~ Mayor Dave Barrow
“Council and staff are to be congratulated for continuing to find tax savings and efficiencies to offset the impact of COVID-19 on residents. It was a difficult year but despite the pandemic Richmond Hill achieved great things like opening modern new facilities, supporting the environment and clearing windrows. We’ve also put the City in the enviable position of a 0% tax rate increase for our 2021 operating budget, a tax rate which now stands as the third lowest in all Ontario.” ~ Joe DiPaola, Budget Chair and Deputy Mayor
“This budget – with no increase on Richmond Hill taxes – demonstrates how Council is dedicated to protecting the taxpayer dollar while also continuing to improve services. I’m proud of the work of our budget committee and thank City staff for their work over the past year to find more efficient, effective ways to serve the community.” ~ Greg Beros, Budget Vice Chair and Ward 1 Councillor
- More than 70% of municipal taxes collected by Richmond Hill are sent to York Region and local school boards. In 2020, the City kept only 28% of what Richmond Hill residents paid in property tax.
- The City’s tax rate – one of the lowest in the GTA in 2020 – is applied consistently across all residential properties. The actual amount owed is based on the assessment value of the property, which is set by MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation), not the City.
- Richmond Hill received federal and provincial Safe Restart funding of $4,131,900 in 2020 and $1,747,000 in 2021.
- Richmond Hill Council’s Strategic Priorities 2020-2022 are Balancing Growth and Green, Strong Sense of Belonging, Getting Around the City and Fiscal Responsibility.