York Region Continues to Build Reserves and Reduce Debt: Report

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The 2021 community report also highlights performance measures that have not been met, including more stable housing for previously homeless people, continued transit ridership, increased bike lanes

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, York Region continues to make “meaningful progress” with its strategic plan.

The release of York Region’s 2021 Community Report highlights collaborative efforts to achieve Year Three priorities, as outlined in the Region’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan: From Vision to Results.

The four-year strategic plan ensures the continuous improvement of services provided to residents of York Region. They set performance criteria and contain specific, measurable, achievable and time-bound objectives and action plans.

The 2019-2023 plan sets out four key priorities: increasing the region’s economic prosperity, supporting community health, safety and well-being, building sustainable communities and protecting the environment, and providing reliable and efficient services.

“Despite York Region’s large-scale response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, meaningful progress on the priorities and goals outlined in the strategic plan has continued,” said Wayne Emmerson, President and Chief Executive Officer. branch of York Region. “These accomplishments demonstrate our collaborative efforts and our commitment to ensuring that high-quality programs and services are available to residents, and that York Region remains a strong, caring and safe community.

York Region Chief Executive Bruce Macgregor said in a report on finance and administration that “anchoring the plan in core services to ensure the region continues to meet its legislative obligations while remaining flexible and responsive to resident needs” was “essential to sustaining progress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan identifies 31 performance measures based on priority areas. Each year’s community report determines whether the performance measures are moving in the desired direction. For 2021, 23 of the 31 performance measures in the strategic plan, or 74%, have moved in the desired direction.

A key success highlighted in the 2021 report is the continued implementation of the regional fiscal strategy, which has helped build reserves while reducing the region’s debt level. Between 2017 and 2021, the reserve-to-debt ratio fell from 86% to 147%.

The region also earned top marks in Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector’s Report, with 100% of samples meeting provincial standards. The purchase of six additional electric buses brought the region closer to the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2051, and the planting of 92,154 trees and shrubs took place under the regional strategy program of greening.

Five, or 16%, of the 31 performance measures did not move in the desired direction, while three performance measures had no data to report.

Maintaining transit ridership per capita is a performance metric that reported a decline in 2021, with COVID-19 being the primary cause due to work-from-home initiatives, school closures and changes in user behavior.

An increased percentage of regional roads with sidewalks and/or dedicated bike lanes in urban areas was another unmet performance measure. The trend is expected to continue or intensify as the region continues to include pedestrian and cycling facilities as part of road improvement projects.

The target to increase the percentage of individuals and families remaining in stable housing after six months who were homeless or at risk of homelessness is the third performance measure that did not achieve the desired results. In 2021, 74% of individuals and families who were previously homeless or at risk of homelessness remained in stable housing after six months. Again, COVID-19 impacted this outcome by limiting the reporting capabilities of housing support staff, tightening the availability of affordable housing, and increasing financial instability. The implementation of housing stability programs such as subsidies, case management counselling, and emergency and transitional housing will support the desired increase in this measure.

There was no decrease in the number of megalitres of treated water consumed per 100,000 inhabitants. Increased residential water usage during dry, hot weather and the replacement of one of the central bulk water supply meters, resulting in increased accuracy of total water demand volume readings, were the causes noted.

Finally, the region has not maintained the percentage of core regional assets with a fair or better condition rating. The main cause was the problem of aging pavements. The next annual State of Infrastructure Report, scheduled for fall 2022, will review road replacement strategies.

Additional information in the 2021 Community Report includes the region’s financial statements, York Regional Police achievements, regional committee activities, and awards and recognition.

To read the 2021 Community Report and the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan: From Vision to Results, visit york.ca/york-region/plans-reports-and-strategies/corporate-strategic-plan.

Jennifer McLaughlin is a reporter with the federally funded Local Journalism Initiative at Markham Review

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