Bentivegna cautions council colleagues about taking on budget issues without input from finance

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 8th, 2021



Angelo - not getting it -deferal

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna cautioning his colleagues.

It was a day that ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna will remember for some time and you can be pretty certain that he will be mentioning it often during the 2022 municipal election – assuming of course that he runs for a second term.

Bentivegna has positioned himself as the man who watches the numbers – the vast majority of his questions are related to the level of sending by this council.

And this is a tax and spend council.

Last week Council went through a report from Parks and Recreation who operate the Tyandaga Golf course with a suggestion that it was time to look at a different model for the operation of the golf course.

The Gazette reports on that discussion in a separate news article.

The gist of what Rob Axiak, who has the golf course file, was putting forward the argument that it was time for the financing model to become one that is tax payer supported – meaning that there would be a tax supported contribution to the operation of the golf course. It would not rely on just tee time fees.

Tyandaga golf club

The Tyandada golf course cannot earn enough to cover all the costs – support from taxpayers is being suggested.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison, who knows the Tyandaga part of the city very well – used to represent that part of the city – wants to see a couple of hundred million dollars home on the land. His thinking appears to be aligned with that of the city manager.

The Tyandada golf course cannot earn enough to cover all the costs – support from taxpayers is being suggested.

Later there was another in depth discussion about the fees that are part of the controversial private tree bylaw – controversial to those who apply to cut down a tree on their property.

The golf course was not the only thing council seemed to be prepared to add to things the public would pay for.

Council Sharman set out an example where removing three mature trees from a property would result in a cost of $16,000.

It was suggested that this too could become a tax supported program – the argument being that everyone benefits from the privately owned trees in the city.

The story behind the private tree bylaw will be covered soon.

Angelo B

Bentivegna doesn’t want to be part of a tax and spend council.

Bentivegna doesn’t want to be part of a tax and spend council.

Both proposals are expected to be heard at the Council meeting on May 18th at which point those ideas could become a bylaw requiring the finance department to find a way to add this spend into the 2022 budget.

Councillor Bentivegna argued that the spending would normally be part of the creation of a budget and setting the tax rate was instead being debated without input from the finance department.


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6 comments to Bentivegna cautions council colleagues about taking on budget issues without input from finance

  • Chris Ariens

    This is one of those tough decisions that councils usually punt on to the next one to figure out. The financials of the golf course are actually quite healthy compared to many city services, it turns a small operating profit, however that profit has declined in recent years and does not provide enough to fund major capital investments needed to keep the course in adequate condition over the long term. Those capital investments are what taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for.

    Let’s be clear, ‘unlocking the potential of the golf course’ means residential development, Certainly, Tyandaga residents are going to fight against any residential development in their neighbourhood, just like Millcroft residents are doing. But for a lot of people in the city, they can’t support subsidizing a sport which is seen as elitist (it generally costs close to $100 per person to play when you factor in the cost of green fees, a cart and some beverages), declining in popularity (the 4 – 5 hour block of time required to play a round is tough to carve out, and you need to do so regularly to be consistent enough at the game to truly enjoy it, which is why I haven’t golfed in about 15 years). And there are lots of private courses around the city competing with the public one. But still, the city supports many recreational opportunities, some of them very expensive ones that also have huge capital requirements, ice hockey being one. So denying people the opportunity to discover golf will be very unpopular as well. Ultimately we’re going to have to scale back on something. As a kid of about 12, the only way I was going to be able to afford to play golf was to get a junior membership at a public course. The pandemic has spiked golf demand as people are looking for any activity which they can do outside safely. Unfortunately the Province has closed golf courses, not because of the danger they pose but because of the bad optics.

    I’d say if we’re going to subsidize recreation, we need to ensure it remains reasonably affordable, especially for young people to be able to learn the game and participate. I see that the management has proposed some lower cost options such as twilight rates for people to get in a few holes at the end of the day, which may help. And if there are ways of opening up a sliver of the land so that residents who don’t golf can enjoy it, even just if passing through on a trail to walk, bike, blade, scoot, whatever, it will bring more people to enjoy recreation in Tyendaga and give us more reasons to protect the valuable land from development. Another key community asset is the clubhouse, which may be able to provide more community uses and be more frequently rented out for private events when this pandemic is finished.

  • At the time I became active and went door to door on this issue. We all know who was behind this at the time, Mayor CJ. This was the one time that I can recall that Rick Craven appeared to listen and if memory serves me right, a hands-off Tyandaga promise was made. But you know what that is worth today.

  • Steve W

    It will be a city I no longer wish to live in, if our tax dollars are used to support a golf course for the elite few that use it. Time for the golf course to be sold to a private entity that will manage it. Time for a change in council, they or others (to be elected) need to be more in line with Councilor Bentivegna’s rational thinking.

  • Blair Smith

    Thanks to Councillor Bentivegna for his vigilance, ‘down-to-earth perspective and a surprising insistence on appropriate process. Why wasn’t this item considered as part of the current budget cycle discussion? Surely the financial liability of the Tyandaga Golf Course is not a recently revealed surprise! I may be accused of being myopic to the larger picture or viewing things too selfishly from the perspective of my own “backyard”, but where is the communal benefit in funding a golf course that can not sustain itself from dedicated user fees? I have no problem at all if my taxes are used to establish another park for the use and enjoyment of all citizens. But frankly, I have had enough of my taxes being used for very restricted special interests, such as the LaSalle Park Marina. The City’s funding of the wave break has really never been satisfactorily explained.

  • Penny Hersh

    Why should taxpayers pay for a golf course? Isn’t it bad enough that taxpayer money goes to pay for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre?

    Most residents cannot afford to attend performances or play golf. Certainly taxpayer money should be spent on what benefits all residents of Burlington, not just some.

    Should council move forward on this I think it could come back to haunt them should they run for reelection .

    If the golf course cannot pay for itself then shutter it.

  • joe gaetan

    Having lived in Tyandaga for over 20 years, I vividly recall the last time the city or certain councillors decided they needed to look into “what to do” about the golf course. The motive to me at the time and probably still is, was how could the city develop some or all of this land to unlock the financial potential of this lovely piece of green space. At that time, the city with involvement of Tyandaga residents, undertook a very in depth and detailed study of the options. Before anybody does anything, they need to resurrect that file and look at all the hard work that was done at the time. There will always be a councillor or two who wants to turn all or parts of Tyandaga into a multi million home development. Pay attention folks.