Program Changes - 2016 Budget Summary

The 2016 levy operating budget was prepared by taking a balanced approach to fostering an environment for economic prosperity. The budget presented represented a disciplined approach to spending while investing in strategic areas and focusing on new ways of doing business.

Staff undertook a line-by-line review of each budget item, filtered non-mandatory programs and determined which program changes to bring forward for Council consideration. The following is a summary of the program changes approved by the Budget Review Committee of the Whole on Nov. 26 / Dec. 3, 2016.

Program Gross Net
Total Available 8,090,209 6,050,000

Asset Management Plan
The Region is required to prepare and submit a consolidated Asset Management Plan by December 31, 2016. This plan is required as part of the Federal Gas Tax Funding agreement, which sees the Region receiving in excess of $13 million annually for capital infrastructure funding.

The program change request will allow the Region to retain a consultant to assist in the accumulation of data, analysis, and preparation of the plan, as well as develop methodologies to help incorporate it into the way the Region budgets and plans for capital expenditures. Both rate and levy programs will benefit from a consolidated Asset Management Plan.

200,000 128,828

Niagara to GTA Phase 2 Study
The NGTA Phase 1 Study (2013) that covered the Niagara / Hamilton/ Halton areas identified in the Eastern area corridor connecting the QEW and Hwy 140 and recommended further studies as part of Phase 2 of the NGTA Study leading to a final selected route. Although Phase 2 of the NGTA Study is MTO responsibility, discussions with MTO staff indicate that the timeframes for the Phase 2 Study is more of a longer term.

Regional Council has identified the Provincial commitment to planning for a NGTA corridor in 2016 as one of the focused projects under the Moving People and Goods segment of the Council priorities.

Expenditures are required for carrying out studies for the assessment of the environmental factors in the area of interest identified in the NGTA East corridor that could be used in part towards the route selection process (NGTA Phase 2 Study). The factors are mainly the natural, social, economic and cultural. In assessing the cultural factors, the studies would focus on the stage 1 and 2 archeological assessment. Conversations have occurred between senior MTO and Regional staff.

350,000 -

Intermunicipal Transit
In 2015 Regional Council requested three major transit operating municipalities to provide options for an intermunicipal transit system in Niagara. The three area municipalities have supported the Regional Council request and are working towards developing options. It is unclear at this time what proposals and options they will develop.

To avoid any potential major impacts to budgets in future years, we are recommending that Council continue to provide for funding for the long-term intermunicipal transit concept plan presented in PW 92-2014. This would not result in any program changes in 2016, and provides flexibility for Council in future years to work with local area municipalities should financial support for intermunicipal transit be requested.

This plan would be revised pending the outcome of the work of the cities of St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls.

190,000 -

Cyber Insurance
Corporate Leadership Team approved Cyber and Privacy liability insurance coverage to be included as a program change in the 2016 budget.

The addition of Cyber and Privacy insurance coverage to Niagara Region's insurance program would provide protection to the organization against claims brought by third parties for losses associated with cyber-attack as well as protection to Niagara Region against the costs associated with managing the privacy crisis (including notification, forensic investigation, business interruption, crisis management, data restoration, cyber extortion).

30,000 13,596

Taxpayer Relief Reserve Funding
Approved by Council in CSD 11-2014 was a transfer of $3.31 million in 2013 surplus from levy supported programs to the Taxpayer Relief Reserve.

In the report, it was recommended that the $3.31 million transfer be used to offset the operating budget over a four year period starting in 2015. This funding allocation will gradually offset the impact of a $1.7 million transfer from this reserve budgeted in 2014 to support more sustainable operations as follows:

  • 2015 - $1,300,000
  • 2016 - $1,000,000
  • 2017 - $700,000
  • 2018 - $310,000
  • Total - $3,310,000
300,000 300,000

Broadband Initiative (SWIFT)
The scope of the project is to participate in a well-developed southwest Ontario initiative to build new fibre optic infrastructure throughout Southwest Ontario and in the Niagara Region. The South West Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) will include optical transport, aggregation, and access connectivity as a basis for providing Metro-Ethernet Forum (MEF) standard of service over a unified platform across participating southwest Ontario municipalities.

SWIFT will be an open access system equitably available to all providers and users in the region. Service providers will build, own, and operate the network and pay modest wholesale and retail residuals to SWIFT in exchange for the upfront two-thirds build cost subsidy they receive from SWIFT and our federal and provincial government partners.

Through this mechanism, it is the objective of SWIFT to connect virtually every resident, farmer, business, and public sector organization to fibre optics by 2040 and thereby contributing to the resurgence of the regional economy everyone needs.

When the initial build phase of the project is completed in 2020 fibre optic access will be available in about 350 communities across Niagara Region and Southwestern Ontario to a population density as low as four person per square kilometre.

500,000 500,000

District Plans
This is a multi-year program to support Regional Council's prosperity agenda to promote growth and development in Niagara. Several opportunities exist to "grow within" in addition to "grow out".

Grow within opportunities include areas around Brock University, Niagara College and other communities. In partnership with local area municipalities, this project would work on a series of district plans to "grow within".

This is a competitive issue for Niagara - other communities in the GTHA and beyond (including Waterloo Region) are completing and implementing major growth projects for districts around key nodes such as colleges, universities, and hospitals. This funding will be used with local municipal support (in-kind) to complete secondary plans for growth in the key nodes. This work will provide certainty for development proposals and create a confident environment for investors.

80,000 80,000

Growth Strategy Projects
This is a three year program for projects to support Regional Council's direction for growth and prosperity. Major initiatives in 2015 that implement this direction are the Coordinated Provincial Review and developing the Region's future Urban Structure.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, major work will be required to support these ongoing initiatives. The work includes:

  • "Growth analytics" which is a program to assess and evaluate growth and prosperity options for Urban Niagara through the Municipal Comprehensive Review. The analytical work is necessary to achieve the best outcome for Niagara and to demonstrate growth scenarios. Information developed can include recommended location of growth areas, densities, modal shares, infrastructure requirements, costing, etc.
  • The Urban Structure establishes the vision and high level framework for focused growth and development and leveraging economic prosperity and market trends. This will result in a Regional Official Plan amendment and related implementation work so that the Coordinated Provincial Review, Hubs and Station Study, Municipal Comprehensive Review, Transportation Master Plan, Water / Wastewater Master Plan and Economic Development Strategy are integrated.
100,000 100,000

Tourism in Niagara
As directed by Regional Council in May 2015, a Tourism Industry Analysis and Options report was presented to Regional Council on November 12, 2015 (ED 4-2015). This is a new initiative to support the jobs, investment and potential economic growth of the tourism industry across Niagara due to increased competition and technology changes. Initiation of the $100,000 in funding requested for implementation of tourism activities will be subject to the submission of a formal business case in Q1 2016.

This program would allow us to do a better job of promoting our existing tourist attractions and drawing tourists to new areas that have not been looked at as tourist areas in the past. It would increase jobs, investment opportunities and include a public sector support role. Some of the recommendations (listed in order of importance) for this program are:

  1. Transportation / Access Infrastructure
  2. Wayfinding / Signage
  3. Economic Development Strategy
  4. Facilitation / Coordination
  5. Planning and Policies
  6. Special Event Bid Fund
  7. Marketing
100,000 100,000

Port Robinson Ferry
This business case aligns with Council Report PW 65-2015 City of Thorold Request for Funding - Port Robinson Ferry. Key facts from the report are:

  • The Port Robinson Bridge was destroyed on August 25, 1974 in a shipping accident. The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority established a ferry service in 1975 to reconnect the east and west sides of Port Robinson. The ferry is operational from May to October.
  • In 1991, an agreement was executed between the City of Thorold and the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority for the operation of the ferry service. In summary, the responsibilities for the operation of the ferry service were transferred to the City of Thorold and the Seaway continued to fund the service. This agreement will expire in April of 2016.
  • The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority vested the management of Welland Canal with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation
  • The City of Thorold submitted a proposal to Niagara Region in 2011 that was followed up by a Regional staff report ICP 18-2011. In response to the proposal by Thorold, Regional Council directed staff to conduct a due diligence study which was completed in 2012.
  • In April 2015, the City of Thorold Council requested the Regional Council to fund 100% of the annual operating cost for the Port Robinson Ferry Service starting April 2016, and to prepare a 10-year operating agreement with Thorold and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. The City staff report was CAO 2015-09.
66,500 66,500

Ambulance Resource Enhancements (12 full time equivalents)
Addition of one 24 hour ambulance crew (eight full time equivalents), two logistics / planning staff (two full time equivalents), and two operational supervisors (two full time equivalents).

Call volumes have been escalating at unprecedented rates across the Region and response times increased as a result of emergency resource depletion. Council voted in 2014 to instate an additional two 24 hour ambulance crews which were fully implemented in November 2014 (per recommendation in report PHD 17-2014).

Staff was directed to report back in Q2 2015 on the impact of these additional resources and the potential need for further addition of two 24 hour ambulance crews plus two operations superintendents and two logistical support full time equivalents. The original request from staff was for two 24 hour ambulance crews however Council only approved including budget funds for one 24 hour ambulance crews as well as the logistical and operational supervisors.

The implementation of this program change as well as consideration of an additional ambulance crew was deferred pending the outcome of an EMS Master Plan that will assist in providing long term strategies and plans that will inform the service regarding the best approach to utilize emergency resources to meet the needs of the community and taxpayer.

1,768,000 884,000

Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities - Temporary to Permanent Staff (28 full time equivalents)
Business Case: Request that 28 existing temporary full time equivalent positions in Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities be made permanent, and funded from levy.

Niagara Region, under the Ontario Works Act (s.38, O.Reg. 136/98) is required to deliver the Ontario Works program. The program is heavily regulated, highly prescriptive, and constantly changing. Pursuant to the legislation and provincial directives, the Region is responsible for determining client eligibility for benefits and services, monitoring compliance and meeting contracted obligations. The Ontario Works program must also provide benefits and assistance to Ontario Disability Support Program clients.

Niagara's Ontario Works program is delivered by the Social Assistance and Employment Services Division of the Community Services Department. Under the leadership of Organizational Performance, a comprehensive and objective third party review of Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities staffing levels and spans of control has been undertaken. The results were presented at the Nov. 3, 2015 Public Health and Social Services Committee meeting.

The review recommends maintaining the 28 temporary positions, and making them permanent and adding 8.4 new full time equivalents. The addition of new full time equivalents in addition to the current 28 temporary full time equivalents will continue to keep Niagara at the low end of the range for comparator municipalities. At the high end of the range, Niagara would need to add more than 100 full time equivalents over and above the 28 temporary to permanent conversions proposed in this business case. Detailed rationale for both recommendations is provided in the third party report.

This budget business case addresses maintaining the 28 temporary positions as permanent; a second business case addresses the recommendation to increase staffing. Currently Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities' staffing complement is 218.6, which includes the 28 temporary full time equivalents, 3 temporary full time equivalents approved by Council to implement the Bend the Curve project, and 2 fully funded full time equivalents for the federal Local Immigrant Partnership.

- 952,368

Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities - New Permanent Staff (one full time equivalents)
Niagara Region, under the Ontario Works Act (s.38, O.Reg. 136/98) is required to deliver the Ontario Works program. The program is heavily regulated, highly prescriptive, and constantly changing.

Pursuant to the legislation and provincial directives, the Region is responsible for determining client eligibility for benefits and services, monitoring compliance and meeting contracted obligations. The Ontario Works program must also provide benefits and assistance to Ontario Disability Support Program clients.

Niagara's Ontario Works program is delivered by the Social Assistance and Employment Services Division of the Community Services Department.

The Data analyst will assist to address the pressing and ongoing need to have accurate and timely data to measure performance, service metrics and ensure that Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities' resources are effectively addressing and reducing a growing caseload (and policy support due to the anticipated program changes in Ontario Works legislation).

This position will help ensure the division has the foundation it needs to implement the "Bend the Curve" project. Bend the Curve is the project delivering on the Council strategic priority project to reduce caseload growth. This two year project will develop an business system to skills match clients to available jobs.

100,500 50,250
Street Lighting Upload
Initiate a three year phase in program to assume the responsibility of street lighting within the Regional network as outlined in the Transportation Services Sustainability Review (PWA 82-2009). Currently the Region maintains 1,169 street lights and the municipalities maintain 5,947 street lights.
210,000 210,000

Public Realms Investments
The Smarter Niagara Incentives Program currently offers a grant for public realm improvement projects. Public realm includes a variety of public spaces such as local and regional streets, parks and urban squares, walkways and trails, and public buildings.

In the past three years no funds have been available for public realm projects. Under the current public realm program one of the priority areas for funding is streetscaping, with consideration also given to facade improvement of municipal and institutional / not-for-profit buildings such as museums, libraries, and theatres. Preference is also given to projects which include heritage and / or public art components.

Public realm funding is subject to the following funding guidelines:

  • The project must be a public realm improvement already identified in, or in compliance with, municipal planning documents, including Community Improvement Plans, Secondary Plans, or Official Plans
  • Funds will be granted on a matching basis with the Region's share not to exceed 50% of the overall project cost
  • The maximum Regional grant for any individual project will be $100,000
  • Payment of the Region's share will be made on completion of the project, subject to verification by the local municipality. Projects must be completed within one year of approval

On a go-forward basis, the public realm funding will be focused on streetscaping associated with Regional Road projects within urban / downtown areas. Regional Roads in core areas have a significant impact on communities. Streets are a vital part of public open space systems, functioning as corridors for movement of pedestrians, cyclists, transit and vehicles. They also support social interaction, as well as influence business activities.

Well-designed streetscapes enhance the appearance, health and enjoyment of the urban landscape. Streetscapes are integral to supporting private development and investment; the streetscape program will give Niagara a competitive advantage in terms of development quality and investment.

250,000 -
Expedited development approval (one full time equivalent)
To fund the one staff position at a manager's level to maintain service levels and leadership of the Development Planning Division responsible for development application review for each of the 12 local area municipalities, in addition to other responsibilities.
120,501 120,501

Niagara Airports Review
On July 23, 2015, Regional Council passed separate motions that supported engaging in preliminary discussions regarding: 1) the potential transfer of the operations of the Niagara District Airport Commission; and 2) the potential transfer of the operations of the Niagara Central Airport Commission

Further motions were also approved that directed the Regional CAO to meet with staff of the local municipalities to jointly review and prepare the necessary background information and options for Regional Council, and report back to the Transportation Strategy Steering Committee in the first quarter of 2016.

In order to properly deliver on these directives, reviews of an industry and business model for which staff do not have all of the necessary knowledge are required. As such, funding for external consulting expertise is being requested through this business case.

Staff will take on numerous aspects of the reviews through internal resources. The consultant will be asked to look at current and future potential aviation and business opportunities for the two airports, as well as each airports' ability to capitalize on those opportunities with consideration of items such as land, infrastructure, environmental and industry factors, and aviation regulations.

150,000 -

Risk Mitigation
In order to mitigate any known risks at the time of budget preparation, it is recommended that the amount available from unused assessment growth to achieve a zero net levy increase be set aside to fund risks that may materialize during the budget year.

The 2016 Levy Operating budget identified a number of risks including:

  • Possible repayment of historical overpayment of power dams payment-in-lieu
  • Niagara Regional Police Service unresolved factors
  • Niagara Regional Housing approval of zero per cent guidance outstanding
  • Inflation and economic conditions, such as fluctuating utility and fuel costs
  • Social assistance case loads
  • Legislated changes and Provincial / Federal funding announcements that can impact actual revenue and expenses
2,543,957 2,543,957
Subtotal remaining to be considered 5,142,958 4,761,076
Balance remaining   -
Total program change and non-mandatory adjustments approved 6,859,458 6,050,000
Percentage impact on the levy (net of Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities upload)
Assessment Growth
Net levy impact   0.00%


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