Can city council pass a budget? Might not happen but it did

By Pepper Parr

December 14th, 2021


They got to the edge, looked over and backed away.  The budget will pass – 4.62% increase over last year.

Council has taken a half hour recess while some members re-think their original positions on whether or not the budget before them is a good enough budget.

Councillor Sharman has said he will not support it.

There were votes on earlier in the day on 16 different budget items – the Mayor and her supporters won most of those votes – but on a critical one she lost.

With Council now ready to vote on the amended Operating budget – which was at 5.47% increase over last year when Staff presented it to Council.

Meetings on November 30, December 2 and December 9th and today as well got that percentage down to 4.62%

Councillor Bentivegna, on the right, has depended on Councillor to explain the proceedings.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna has been the swing vote surprisingly often. Prior to today he usually sided with Councillor Sharman.

This Council has two people who stick with the Mayor on basically everything: Councillors Nisan and Galbraith. They have to entice Bentivegna to join them

Councillor Paul Sharman: His background and years of experience work to help him explain complex financial matters – especially at the policy level.

Councillors Sharman, Stolte and Kearns hang together – doing what they can to entice Bentivegna. This is not what Angelo Bentivegna expected when he finally won a council seat.

To the surprise of this reporter Bentivegna said he was not going to vote for the budget as it stood.

We will know by about 3:25 today if this Council can pass a budget.

City Manager does not see a pretty picture if the budget does not pass.

Last week City Manager Tim Commisso explained to Council that if they could not pass a budget they would have to return the document they were working with back to Staff with clear instructions to return with a budget that meet specific objectives.

City Manager Tim Commisso explained to Council that what Staff comes back with, if it should come to that, would not be pretty.

On balance this Council has not been very pretty for the past year. It isn’t what people thought they were getting when they replaced Rick Goldring with Marianne Meed Ward.

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10 comments to Can city council pass a budget? Might not happen but it did

  • Penny Hersh

    Interesting that my copy of City Talk landed in my mailbox today around noon, indicating “City Council approves 2022 city budget: Burlington taxes remain below average in a comparison of local municipalities” and Council didn’t pass the budget until around 4PM Today.

  • Penny Hersh

    I watched the afternoon council meeting and found it interesting that $300,000.00 was taken out of the budget for the first phase of what I think was putting in place a plan to attract and retain city employees through job performance evaluation ( correct me if I am wrong) to simply lower the taxes a tiny fraction.

    Yet there was no hesitation in the following:”Robert Bateman Building – Preliminary Design, Environmental, Architectural andEngineering Services (EICS-20-21)
    Approve funding to an upset limit of $3,000,000. from the capital purposes reservefund for ongoing due diligence, environmental, preliminary design, architectural,engineering and project management services for the phased adaptive re-use of theRobert Bateman High School Site.”

    This is $3,000,000.00 taxpayer dollars that is being spent without the city owning the property or any commitment from any organization including Brock University who has a hard deadline of 2023 to be in the building.

    The only councillor who questioned approving this money before owning the property was Councillor Stolte. She asked if all the money would be spent now, and in my opinion was given a very convoluted response that really didn’t answer the question. My take is that it will be spent by March 2022 with monies being spent already on this proposed project.

    This building without doubt has asbestos that has to be removed and we all know that once you start renovating an old building one encounters many hidden problems.

    Residents are not privy to any information at this time as a formal bid for the property was made on Friday, December 10th according to Tim Commisso. Interesting timing.

    Surprising that this council campaigned on being transparent.

    • Mary Hill

      So are you really advocating that the City buy the property and then do its due diligence? People buying houses have an inspection done at their cost as a condition of purchase. Do you know for a fact that this due diligence is not a like condition of an offer.

      Jumping to conclusions with absolutely no knowledge of the facts.

  • Bruce Leigh

    “It isn’t what people thought they were getting when they replaced Rick Goldring with Marianne Meed Ward.”

    That is a very sweeping, generalized statement and I would say an opinion that is presented as a fact.

    What then does the Gazette think residents are not getting that they had anticipated getting?

    The fact that the Council is split vote wise is a reflection of councilors having grown into their positions, being more confident in themselves. That growth is a good thing. But at the end of the day compromises will need to be made on all sides.

    What would be of real interest to me, and I suspect to most Gazette readers, I believe, is a report by the Gazette on where each councillor stands on the budget in general and specifically their hobby horse items. The Gazette did report on what amendments each councilor initially put forward. Perhaps a similar article focused particularly on the dissenting councilors could be forthcoming.

  • Edward Gamble

    5,42% is unacceptable

    The final number was 4.62% increase over last year

  • Philip Waggett

    In an earlier post on Dec. 7, I noted that Gary Carr, showing respect for Halton Taxpayers, had directed: “Halton Region’s Budget Directions Report lays the foundation for keeping taxes low in 2022 while investing in key priorities for our community. The Report was approved by Regional Council on July 14, and it directs Halton staff to maintain property tax rate increases at or below the rate of inflation (2.0 per cent) while supporting our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    And in Brampton, the Mayor, Patrick Brown–like Gary Carr, also a Conservative, directed the budget process to result in a ZERO percent property tax increase–FOR THE FOURTH STRAIGHT YEAR!!!!! More respect for the taxpayer:

    But here in Burlington, MMW, is on record as revealing the budget process involves “a wish list”. Of course, MMW, so spending and tax increases are part of her DNA. I hope residents understand when they go to vote in 2022, that a different political leadership CAN direct a tougher budget process that shows respect for them.

    • Tom Muir

      Hey, Phil and I agree!

      On December 3 and 5th this is what we wrote.

      Phil’s comment here shows that leadership in this way works.

      I said,” I worked for the Fed for decades and we had a simple straightforward way to meet budget reduction goals, if they really mattered. State what the reduction amounts or percentage targets are, and then just tell the managers that they have to meet that target – no argument, let them decide what goes.”

      This way always worked. Just give the orders.

      Phil said, “Tom, your point about meeting budget targets within departments is well
      taken; the department managers are best positioned to make the
      decisions for their departments based on a strict budgetary guideline.”

      So actually it works, or can work if it is really wanted, and the budgeting is serious.

      It was approved by Regional Council, which includes all our Councilors and the Mayor. No “serious” budgeting to keep tax increases at inflation here is apparent.

      I agree with Bruce that the Gazette should call on all the Councilors and Mayor to explain why.

      There really might be good reasons showing that Burlington is in rough financial shape and really needs more taxes to pay the bills.

      Tell us please Councilors. It’s called being transparent and accountable, so you can make it short and easy to understand.

      • Bruce Leigh

        It seems the PC party (both Provincial and Federal) and it’s blinkered supporters are blind set (not mind set) on budget/expense reduction or a randomly picked percentage increase, as opposed to paying market rated and maintaining a quality of service. I am not against making sure waste is eliminated thus minimizing increases. But as we discovered with the Harris government, you cannot just keep cutting budgets and expect to maintain services. Ford realized that early on when he tried to cut healthcare and other budgets.

        Phil, you need to get out more or watch more news reports on the TV. Inflation is not at 2%. Canada’s, the USA’s, the UK’s and most other first world countries now have inflation at around 6% (40 year highs). Inflation not caused simply by out if control government spending or wage increases, but by a supply and demand imbalance. Do you think a municipality is immune to increased costs from suppliers? A municipality has the same upward cost pressures as any business or any citizen. If you do mot want to pay the increased cost of your supplier the only choices are to find a cheaper supplier (hopefully as good), or cut your supplier orders.

        Take a look at the Milton council. Reported here in the Gazette as taking the brave decision to set a tax increase at 5.45%. Are you guys saying Milton Council is spend thrift?


        • Tom Muir

          Good points Bruce. I won’t add to this discussion as it is not so simple for me to completely agree. I agree that the City costs have gone up, but likewise for everyone.

          For myself, I was just hearing Council discussion about tax increases being too much, but everything mostly was said to be too needed to be cut, so how to reduce the increase significantly?

          My point was really as I stated it – if you really want to cut taxes, just do it. I lived with that many times and I will tell you that everything on the wish list is definitely not needed.

          But we have elected the Council to make these decisions, and they have. If we don’t like it, tough. There are elections.

          • Bruce Leigh

            Tom, I completely agree. It is want versus need. You’re right. And yes, Council is made up of our elected representatives and so should make decisions for us, without overdue referral vacancies to the electorate.