(as published in the December 17, 2015 edition of the Aurora Banner)

It’s the end of 2015 and the holidays are here again! I hope that each of you have a chance to spend some quality time with your family and loved ones. Don’t miss Aurora’s Family First Night on Wednesday, December 31 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex. This event will welcome the New Year with many fun and enjoyable family activities.

I’m pleased to report that Aurora Town Council approved the 2016 operating budget on December 8. The capital budget was previously approved at the Council meeting on October 27. The Town’s operating budget was approved at $58.2 Million, with a $12.4 Million capital budget to rehabilitate roads, waterlines and other Town-owned infrastructure.

This was an efficient and effective budget process. Council and staff worked collaboratively to achieve a budget target of a 1.8 per cent increase. This amounts to an additional Town share tax of $31 per year on a home with an assessed value of $500,000.

We often refer to the strong health of the Town’s finances and it’s important that our residents understand the foundation behind this statement. I will be addressing this in more detail next month, but suffice it to say our balance sheet is quite strong!

I have always contended that you cannot run a government like a business – but you can be “business-like”. And to that end, over the last five years, I have championed the refinement of the Town’s financial planning processes. We have a detailed Asset Management Plan which documents the infrastructure assets we have, how we assess them and make rehabilitation or replacement decisions, rating their general overall condition and how we plan to fund our future needs.

We also have a detailed Ten-Year Capital Investment and Funding Plan. This plan carefully sets out the individual assets to be replaced or rehabilitated in each of the next ten years, all organized by asset group, such as roads or fleet.

The Town together with other municipalities and associations continue to lobby the federal and provincial governments for additional revenue sources and more infrastructure funding. While we are seeing progress in this area, the Town must make tough decisions to continue to address our infrastructure funding challenges and ensure that our assets are getting replaced in time. The Town continues to ensure optimal and efficient use of tax funds in our daily operations by eliminating duplication, waste and improving our services where possible. For more information on the 2016 budget, please visit www.aurora.ca/budget.

On another note, Aurora Town Council approved a Parking Permit Program, at the last Council meeting, to address concerns about parking around Aurora. Staff developed a program that addresses permit parking around Town Park, ad-hoc overnight parking and special consideration parking for RVs. The parking program is still in development and is set to start in early 2016. This program helps to alleviate parking congestion around Town and continue to keep our roads safe in Aurora. For more information on this new initiative, please call Bylaw Services at 905-727-3123 ext. 4240.

In closing, during this holiday season I encourage you to think of the less fortunate members of our community and provide a helping hand to your local charity or food bank. Providing support and goodwill is the best gift you can give over the holidays.

All the best during this festive season! Please have a safe and happy holiday!