Transit was the major topic of discussion as councillors in Waterloo Region got a first look at the 2011 budget on Wednesday.

The budget for running regional services is expected to total $1.1 billion for 2011.

That means regional taxpayers could see a tax increase of 1.25 per cent, or just under $20 on the average tax bill, but that estimate does not include the police budget.

Councillors have been told growth is strong in the region, but there are some major expenditures planned, including improving existing transit and the proposed light rail transit (LRT) system.

Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig has asked the regional council to go back to the drawing board and take a look at a more affordable bus rapid transit plan.

"During the election, the public was very unhappy with the light rail transit," Craig says. "What they want are options. They want to have a lower bill and they want a rapid transit system, but one they can afford."

Tim Mollison, a light rail advocate, says the council needs to do a better job of selling the idea. "Instead of spending more staff time to get the same answer you got a year and half ago, please invest in communicating with your taxpayers."

Even with federal and provincial funding, the region still needs about $250 million to fund the LRT plan, which some councillors say is too costly.

Peter Taylor, a member of a bus advocacy group Taxpayers for Sensible Transit, says buses are "cheaper, better suited for the region and are much more flexible with respect to route and service."

The council is expected to receive an updated report on the bus and LRT option within the next few weeks and hope to finalize the budget by late March.