Proposed 17.4% increase for Regional tax and utility hike could cripple residents already struggling with high cost of living 
Alexis Wright/The Pointer

Proposed 17.4% increase for Regional tax and utility hike could cripple residents already struggling with high cost of living 

In what is likely the final annual budget presented to Regional councillors before Peel’s government dissolves, taxpayers are being asked to fund some of the largest increases in the Region’s history.

Many of them can’t afford it.

A staggering 10.6 percent increase has been proposed to Peel Region’s 2024 government budget while its utility bill, under the ask, would rise by 6.8 percent. Not all residents pay both, but many property owners are being asked to cover these unprecedented increases for their regional services, just as the entire institution is set to dissolve. 

Bill 112, the Hazel McCallion Act, mandates the Region of Peel be dissolved by January 1, 2025, to make way for Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon to no longer be part of a two-tier system of municipal government. They will each stand on their own.

The proposed 10.6 percent budget increase supported by property taxes is only for the Region’s share of the bill, which accounts for a little more than 40 percent of what residential and commercial property owners pay (just under 40 percent goes to the lower-tier municipality each resident lives in, and the remaining 20 percent of the property tax bill is for the provincial education share). Under the current breakdown, the Region’s proposed 10.6 percent increase represents a 4.5 percent hike in the overall tax bill, not including whatever amounts are added onto it by the lower-tier municipality and the province, which has not increased its education portion in years. 

The utility rate hike of 6.8 percent would be on top of the property tax bill, with the two combined amounts proposed by the Region totalling $325 in additional tax and utility fees for 2024 (this is for a home assessed at the average value across Peel). The average commercial increase for both the tax and utility hikes would be $517 next year (these figures do not include any increase for the lower-tier portion or a possible rise in the provincial education amount).   

Many departments in the regional government are making big funding requests ahead of the looming dissolution of Peel. The police force has made the largest ask in its history, a 14 percent increase to the operating budget for 2024.


CFO Davinder Valeri says the 2024 Region of Peel budget is focused on service continuity.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


Norman Lum, Director, Business and Financial Planning and Deputy Treasurer, provided a breakdown of the total proposed budget on November 16: the total proposed budget for operating expenditures is $3.4 billion, representing the combined operating budgets for the property tax-supported and utility rate-supported programs, with 28 percent funded through grants and subsidies mainly from upper level governments, 17 percent through the utility rate, 12 percent through “other” revenues including user fees and 43 percent ($1.5 billion) through property tax revenues.


Breakdown of sources of funding for the 2024 Regional Budget.

(Region of Peel)


Gary Kent, Chief Administrative Officer, told reporters it is “a muscular budget designed to support this community now and in the future, regardless of governance.” He emphasized that continued delivery of services must be achieved without interruption through the transition toward the dissolution in a little more than a year. 

“The focus on this budget is really about the services that Region wants to resume, and it's really a forward looking budget as well,” Davinder Valeri, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Corporate Services, said at the media briefing. “And making sure… that nothing is interrupted during this period of time.”

Outside the large increase to support the proposed police budget (largely to hire more staff, and for major capital project expansions totalling $666 million) there is a lack of clarity around the need for so much more revenue from taxpayers, when staffing levels have already been shrinking and departments are being wound down.

More details were provided for the utility budget.

The proposed Water and Wastewater budget, supported by the utility rate fee, includes a 2024 capital budget of $1.4 billion and a proposed operating budget of $527.3 million. In comparison, the approved 2023 budget had a $641.4 million capital budget and $488.4 million operating budget. As highlighted in the proposed 2024 budget report, the Region of Peel’s water and wastewater infrastructure is “one of the largest assets owned and operated by the Region with a replacement value of $28.5 billion.”

Demands by the Doug Ford PC government stemming from its controversial Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, loom over the Region. The $1.4 billion budget request seeks to maintain and expand current services, including wastewater collection, water-main replacement and construction and expansion of water treatment plants and pumping stations, among a number of other crucial services and projects. “We’ve added the equivalent of 8 percent of our system in the last three years. As you can imagine, these [increases] drive the need for maintenance and repairs as our system ages and grows,” Anthony Parente, General Manager, Water and Wastewater, said at the November 23 budget meeting. He said more staff resources are needed, as the PCs continue to place pressure on municipalities to support the strategy to build 1.5 million homes across Ontario by 2031. Peel’s three lower-tier municipalities are expected to bring almost 250,000 new units online by that date, and the PCs have claimed some municipalities are sitting on revenues from developers for building fees, which Ford and his colleagues expect cities and towns to use for the required infrastructure such as water and wastewater. Meanwhile, taxpayers are now being asked to cover much of this burden, on top of all the other rising costs they face.  

Councillor Mario Russo asked if the department has ensured that all three municipalities, and every resident and business, will have unimpeded continuity of services following dissolution. Parente said work with the lower-tier partners is ongoing to ensure there are no disruptions.   

To support the Peel Regional police proposed capital budget of $666.6 million debt would have to be taken on; it remains unclear why the figure has grown by more than ten times compared to the $43.0 million for capital costs in 2024 that was forecast in the 2023 police budget, which included an already historic increase. 

Split up into main categories, the budget will cover external agencies such as police services, fees to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, conservation authorities, and to cover regionally controlled services. 

(Region of Peel)


The proposed housing budget includes a $180.7 million operating budget for 2024, and $190.6 million for the capital budget. The Region has reported that 91,000 households are in core housing need, yet its services only meet 19 percent of that need for affordable housing and supports. In the 2023 Region of Peel budget, housing support was approved at $155.2 million for operating costs and $169.1 million for capital needs. 

Peel’s housing staff told councillors the 2024 budget ask would help “a few thousand more residents in need.” Aileen Baird, Director, Housing Services, said it would “prevent more homelessness” and “provide more people with safe, affordable, well-maintained homes in the community housing system,” should council approve its budget. The department is seeking $5.4 million to enhance investments in Housing Subsidy and wrap around supports. It is seeking $3.7 million for 40 additional permanent staff to address the significant increases in service demand the department has experienced, including a 230 percent increase in service requests highlighted in their presentation. 

“Additional staff is needed to catch up… And to stabilize our service coming out of the pandemic, so that we can adjust to the rapid and increased demand for our service and try to restore responsible response time for our essential service,” Baird said. The Region has struggled for years to provide adequate housing support services, like emergency housing, due to a lack of support from councillors and the private sector. As reported by The Pointer, Peel’s shelters are currently operating at 321 percent capacity, with the Region seeing a 167 percent increase in encampments since 2022. The recent death of an asylum claimant living out of an encampment in Mississauga was a tragic reminder of the need to properly fund emergency housing in Peel. 

The $190.6 million capital budget request will include $5.2 million for Peel owned Housing and Shelters State of Good Repair. In the proposed budget, Housing Support’s 2024-2027 Business Plan and 2024 Budget section highlights that, “Enhanced investments in subsidy and wrap around supports are required to help more people get and keep housing they can afford -$10.4M, $5M funded through tax stabilization reserve for a net impact of $5.4M.” Out of 31 identified opportunities to build on Region of Peel and Peel Housing land, the department said it has enough funding to launch 7 projects and the budget request will add an 8th.

Councillor Dipika Damerla claimed the province has not been providing adequate funding for housing, resulting in the costs falling to property taxpayers. “These services need to be funded, but by the right government,” she said. Housing is not a responsibility of the province, under current legislation in Ontario, funding is the jurisdiction of municipalities with Queen’s Park and Ottawa recognized as key partners to support the responsibilities of regions, cities and towns. 

“There's a need for ongoing advocacy to the federal and provincial government to do more,” Baird responded, saying about 25 percent of all expenditures are covered through their funding support, adding that the department is putting forward its proposal “to increase Regional investment, given that we’re only meeting 19 percent of our community’s need today.” 

Peel’s Paramedic service is asking for an $82.8 million operating budget next year, compared to $76.3 million approved in the 2023 budget. It is also requesting $40.2 million for its capital budget for 2024, compared to $55.8 million which was approved for 2023. The budget report highlights that in 2022, over 149,000 calls were handled, part of “an increasing trend in call volumes each year, which is expected to continue.” 

During the department’s delegation at the November 23 budget meeting, Brian Gibson, Chief and Director, Paramedic Services, said the budget increase would help meet increased service demand in a growing region while also addressing mental health and wellness initiatives to support staff’s psychological health and safety. As reported by The Pointer, Peel Paramedic first responders have endured violence and verbal assault while on the job, leading to injuries and adverse mental health impacts. Regarding increased service demand (including higher call demands) Gibson referenced Bill 23 which will only bring more residents to the area, who will require emergency services.

“This budget will work towards matching the resources to the demand, balancing workload pressures and creating a culture and an environment where our staff can be well,” he said, highlighting staff experiences of harassment, stressful encounters and acts of violence while on the job. “Staff made a total of 55 WSIB claims in 2022 based on traumatic and stressful events.”  

Peel Paramedics estimate 201 ambulances will be needed by 2030, with 65 additional ambulances compared to 2022. Part of the $40.2 million capital budget will be dedicated to enhancement and state of good repair for ambulances and other fleets ($8.2 million) and enhancement and state of good repair for ambulance equipment and computers ($3.2 million). It is still unclear what will happen to Peel Paramedics following the dissolution of the Region, and whether the department will remain intact after January 2025.

Councillor Brad Butt raised the question of whether Peel Paramedics has the capacity to bring on more of the highly-skilled staff needed, or if there are challenges around recruitment within the sector. A staff response explained there is “a competition, if you will” where the GTHA alone could absorb the “entire graduating class of paramedics per year.”

The budget proposal includes needs for seniors services, with a proposed operating budget of $54.2 million compared to $47 million in 2023, and a decrease in its capital budget request of $6.8 million (it was approved for $10 million in 2023). There were 25,632 visits to regionally funded Adult Day Services, and as the population bulge at the end of the age cohort continues to grow this number “continues to increase alongside the waitlist” for services provided to seniors.

The Public Health department, which has been chronically underfunded, is asking for a $40.1 million operating budget in 2024, compared to $37.8 million in 2023, and a $350,000 capital budget, which is the same amount as the approved 2023 capital budget. The 2024 proposed Public Health budget aims to transform components of the COVID-19 response “into sustainable operations through key changes such as integrating COVID-19 outbreak management and COVID-19 immunization into Public Health’s programming, including the new Immunization Services Division.” Under its Goals of Service section, Public Health says it seeks to complete the transition of COVID-19 emergency operations and vaccination efforts into “sustainable operations to support the prevention and control of COVID-19 for 2024 onwards.”

A report from October highlights how underfunding by upper government has long been a barrier for the Region to “meet community needs and provide timely access to services,” and says advocacy to the province for sufficient funding is needed. The report says Public Health has been “historically underfunded by the Province to deliver on its mandate and meet community needs,” and that it has “one of the lowest provincial per capita funding rates among public health units in Ontario.” 

It also highlights how the province’s announcement from August, that it will provide “all public health units an increase of one per cent in growth base funding annually” until a review is done of the Ministry’s funding methodology for public health, is still not sufficient funding for Peel Public Health to meet its service demand. “The Provincial one per cent funding increase is welcomed; but will not address Public Health’s 2023 cumulative funding shortfall of $9.5 million,” the report highlights. “The one per cent increase in funding over the next three years is equivalent to approximately $500,000 per year, which does not address annual inflation, cost-of-living increases, and population growth needs.” 

The proposed $2.5 billion capital budget for 2024 is dominated by police projects and utility infrastructure needs.  

 (Region of Peel)


During her presentation at the regional meeting on November 16, Valeri said the 2024 budget “is not a dissolution budget,” and that its mandate involves providing “uninterrupted” services to the Region of Peel, but she failed to explain how the provision of uninterrupted services would create such sharp funding increases.

“As our community continues to grow, Peel not only needs to sustain essential services, but expand and transform as we address service demand,” she said, detailing the need to take on more debt. She did not explain how this will be transferred over to Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, or how the already complex matter of dividing assets and liabilities will be calculated. “To support the province’s aggressive growth targets, community safety initiatives and investments in affordable housing, this year's capital budget will need to use debt as a financing tool at levels significantly higher than we have seen historically,” she said, sharing that this level of debt will “significantly limit” the ability for the Region and its successors to fund capital requirement in future years, apparently admitting that funding requests such as the police’s $666.6 million for capital projects, compared to the $43 million that it had projected for 2024, will make life incredibly difficult for each of the lower tier municipalities once regional government no longer exists. 

The seemingly out-of-line requests from departments that won’t even be around to spend much of the money, or will be reorganized under a single-tier structure, have raised some concerns. One problem is that Mississauga currently contributes a higher overall amount to the regional government, but might not see an equal share of these huge requests for 2024 come back to the city after the division of assets. 

Mississauga Councillor Joe Horneck introduced three motions at the first Region of Peel 2024 budget meeting on November 16 (they have not been voted on yet) which seek to trim down some of the proposed 10.6 percent increase to the Region’s 2024 budget. He spoke to The Pointer about the uncertain financial times residents are in—citing the 5 percent of Mississauga residents who currently require support from the city’s food bank—and said that now is not the time for adding large staff complements, launching new projects with low return or continuing to build long term reserves.

“We’re talking about adding full time positions into either programs that exist or creating, in some cases, new programs and new initiatives… that's expanding services,” Horneck told The Pointer, raising the question of whether transition is the right time to expand into new areas. “Its different to say, ‘boy, we need a couple extra staff there because the demand is so high.’ I can empathize with that and maybe that is something we need to do, but when you’re saying ‘I need to launch a new program,’ I don't know that that's the right thing to be doing right now.” 


Mississauga councillor Joe Horneck gave notice of three motions which seek to cut down the 10.6 percent net tax levy increase proposed in the 2024 Region of Peel budget. 

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


Regarding his motions, Horneck said he was encouraged by support he received from Brampton’s mayor Patrick Brown and councillor Gurpartap Singh Toor, who are seconding his motions. “That made me feel good because I feel like it's a validation to the fact that we’re on the right track and that it's not just one city’s point of view… we’re looking at this and we’re just saying, ‘this is a really high tax bill, and this is not the time to be launching new initiatives when we’re doing this transition’”. 

He said he is not looking to change current services or employee numbers, but 10.6 percent to launch new projects and new positions when the regional government will dissolve in just another year does not seem like the right call. “Certainly some areas do need a few additional staff,” he said, “but adding 206 staff in addition to Peel [Police’s] requests is just too much.”

Regional councillors will continue to debate the proposed 2024 budget until it is approved either in December or January. 


Email: [email protected] 

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