Critical Information Technology budgeted at $9 million is expected to require an additional $3 million

By Pepper Parr

December 8th, 2021



Without information technology the city could not open the doors each day.

A lot of very smart people make the technology do what it is expected to do – and making it work is a challenge.

Chad MacDonald: Chief Information Officer

Different computer applications have to learn to “talk” to each other and feed information to each other so that senior staff and council can have an up to date (sometimes up to the minute) information on which to make decisions.

The other given for the technology, the people is money – this stuff is wickedly expensive and the people who work in Information Technology are not cheap – and there aren’t enough of them to go around.

Municipalities will poach from each other to get people who can make it all come together.

Earlier in the week Council got a Status Report on some of the projects for the period August to October.

It wasn’t all bad news – but there wasn’t a lot of really really good news for Council.

The program budget for the Enterprise Resource Planning program is $9,480,000 with more required in the near future.  A Council report and funding request will be presented in April of 2022.  The ask then is in the $3 million range.

One of the problems with keeping on top of these essential but very essential programs is that few of the seven members have much in the way of an understanding of what is involved. Councillors Sharman and Kearns have a good grip on the subject: Kearns is the sharper of the two.

Sharman is good at holding senior Staff to account.  There was an “iconic” Council session last year when Sheila Jones went toe to toe with Councillor Sharman with Jones reminding the Councillor that the approach for members of Council was “noses in – fingers out”.

Councillor Sharman does, from time to time get down into the weeds – the Senior staff in place now are quite good at curbing that Sharman habit.

Burlington has a number of projects delivering customer centric services with a focus on efficiency and technology transformation. Specifically, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Enterprise Asset Management Software (EAMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Business Intelligence (BI) have a corporate designation reflecting the breadth and depth of the scope of these projects and their contribution to achieving customer first approach and digital transformation.

This report also provided information on the theory of status reporting and the key elements of status reports in the City of Burlington including:

Overall project status that considers scope, budget, and schedule and where clear criteria is established to objectively assess the status within each area.

A brief description of the project and alignment to strategic goals.

Highlights of key achievements since the last reporting period and key tasks planned for the upcoming period.

Highlights of critical risks and challenges that form part of the risk management plan.

Key tasks that address communications and engagement and information related to staff resourcing.

Links to documents or tools and other information that may be relevant based on the project status.

In keeping with open communication and engagement, the report provides Committee and Council with an update on each of the three corporate initiatives including overall status, key milestones, critical risks, and other relevant information with the goal of providing assurance that project governance is working effectively.

While the criteria and guidance for assessing a project’s health status have recently been amended within the context of overall project management practices with Information Technology Services, we are deferring its use until 2023. This deferral will provide us with an opportunity to take a refreshed look at the report template to enhance the information reported to council. In addition, we are reviewing our inventory of corporate- wide projects to appropriate status reporting is provided to Council.


The most critical computer application that is being worked up has too many serious risk points. It is too late to go back. The CRM application should be dropped. Hydro installed one that works just fine – borrow from them.

Councillors Nisan, Bentivegna, Stolte and to a considerable degree Councillor Galbraith are lost when technology is the issue. They are easily snowed by Staff.  Burlington has a mix of computer applications that have reached the end of their life cycle and are no longer being supported; other applications have to be revised or replaced in order to communicate with the larger more robust applications that are being used now.

Some budget items can baffle people because of their complexity. It becomes very difficult to hold Staff accountable.

Understanding complex integrated information technology matters is beyond most Councillors.

To understand the size of the challenge calls for some literacy which most of the Councillors don’t have.  The Mayor tends to take what she hears on faith knowing that she can collar the city manager during their weekly meetings that are not on the record.

Sometime ago the city began integrating a Customer Response Management (CRM) program – the first step did not go well.  Members of Council were livid and demanded that the city administration not get in between the Councillors and the voters.

There were solid reasons for putting a CRM program in place when it went kaflooey the Councillors were in a position to demand immediate changes.  That dynamic is unlikely to apply to other situations.

It is generally realized and understood that data is needed to make decisions and that for the most part the data is “in there somewhere”  Isolating the data and setting it up so that it is accessible by other applications is the expensive challenge the city faces.

The Business Information reviews have been completed; they gave the Information Technology people a deep understanding of their operational needs. Chad MacDonland, Chief Information Officer told Council that the work has gone so well that his team has been able to show staff demonstration version of what the completed integration will look like.

Is this the kind of thing a Council member would lust over

However, all the information requirements were not met. Councillor Sharman said that he “lusts after the sense of confidence” he would get from seeing Gantt Charts – and asked if they existed and if they existed were they available.

Executive Director Jones reminded Sharman that the Councillors role was: “noses in, fingers out”.

The Gantt charts exist – no assurance that Sharman will get to see them.


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Milton decides to live with a 5.45% tax increase

By Pepper Parr

December 7th, 2021



The Town of Milton bit the bullet and accepted a 5.47tax increase last night is there a message for Burlington Marianne Meed Ward?

Milton Mayor Gord Krantz has been saying for some time that Burlington is going to have to get used to higher buildings and higher taxes.

The antics at city Council last week look like an attempt to stem the tide.

With the budget being debated at 4.95% perhaps council should quite while they are ahead.

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City finance puts a bylaw in place to access their lines of credit - you never know.

By Staff

December 5th, 2021



Council won’t spend a minute on this item in the consent agenda

A bylaw to authorize the temporary borrowings of monies from the Royal Bank of Canada to meet the ordinary expenditures of the corporation.

At various times during the year, it may be necessary to arrange short-term loans from the City’s banker to meet the current ordinary expenditures of the municipality.

Director of Finance Joan Ford is on a first name basis with the bank manager.

There are times in the year when cash flow is at the lowest point and operating expenditures must be covered during the period just prior to the collection of the property taxes. In previous years, we have borrowed from our Reserve Funds during this time and will continue to do so as necessary in 2022.

Borrowing arrangements with the Royal Bank provide us with a $5,000,000 line of credit at the prime-lending rate minus 3/4%. At the current time, prime stands at 2.45%. It has not been necessary to access this credit line during 2021 or prior years nor is it anticipated to be needed for 2022. The by-law is prepared to meet the requirements of the banks.

The City also has borrowing arrangements with Scotia Bank to provide a credit facility of up to $5,000,000 for administering the City’s purchase card program. In 2021 and prior years, this credit facility was paid off monthly and the City anticipates that the facility will be used in the same manner in 2022.This borrowing agreement does not require a security agreement.


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Council struggles to recommend a budget that can be voted on

Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2021



Some background on the budget process to put what took place last week in context.

Staff prepare a budget setting out what they believe is needed in the way of funding to operate the city.

They prepare a Capital Budget and an Operating Budget.

There is a lot of work done to get the drafts of the budget completed including presentations to Council at Standing Committees.

That budget is then debated at a Council Standing Committee.  Burlington uses BARs (Budget Action Requests) prepared by each council member setting out where they would like to see changes made in specific items.

Those BARs then become the agenda for the budget meeting

This is the process when Council tells staff what they want made in the way of changes.

The work Staff does is administrative; the work done at Council is both administrative and political.  Council members have views and projects they want to advance; see it as the individual council member’s agenda.

The Mayor also has an agenda.

And 2020 is an election year.

The budget timeline was to have council do its work on the Tuesday and Thursday and send a recommendation to Council that would be dealt with on December 14th.

That didn’t happen.  The four votes required to get a recommendation to Council just weren’t to be had.

Budget Committee Chair Rory Nisan

Between now and the 14th individual council members were asked to review their original decisions and come up with ways they think they could get closer to whatever number is going to be acceptable to the Mayor and Rory Nisan Chair of the Budget Committee.

Council would review the recommendation on the 14th, vote on it and if at least four votes for the budget can be found at council it passes and we would all know what we were looking at in the way of taxes for 2022.

However, if at any point in the process a member asks that the vote be called the Chair has to call the vote.  If the Chair doesn’t call the vote he will be challenged this time and forced to call the vote.

Councillor Sharman tried to force a calling of the vote at Standing Committee on Thursday but got stiffed by Chair Nisan who understood the rules better than Sharman.

As messy as all this has been there was one point that everyone agreed upon before the Standing Committee recessed on Thursday – any ideas for changes would be run by Treasurer Joan Ford who would coordinate whatever was put in front of the Standing Committee on the 14th.

Joan Ford, Executive Director of Finance, has a busy few days ahead of her if there is going to be a Council recommended budget.

Ms Ford has a busy weekend ahead of her – she can expect a majority of the members of council to be on the phone to her.  Fortunately for Burlington this is a treasurer who knows the budget and the ramifications when changes are made.  She has been supported by Lori Jivan who has been crunching the numbers.  At some point Ms Jivan will be treasurer somewhere – she has been doing a great job.

As for Mayor Meed Ward she desperately needs a vote from the Committee that recommends a budget.

Without that her re-election prospects are at serious risk.  As it is, the myth that she leads a Council that is reading from the same hymn book is no more.

Related news items:

Is the budget the first municipal election skirmish?

Sharman pushes Council to get more information when preparing budgets.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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City is currently paying some of its staff the minimum wage

By Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2021



When budgets are put together there is the opportunity to get a closer look at all the wheels and cogs that make the city work day to day.

We learned last week that 47% of the cost of running the city is on the Human Resources side and that in this budget there was an expense of $40,000 to cover the cost of the provincial legislation that raised the minimum wage effective January 1st.

One of the Councillors asked why that amount was necessary and learned that the city has staff who are earning just the minimum wage.

City Manager Tim Commisso

City Manager added that it was people working part time, mostly students doing parks and recreation work or sprucing up the flower beds in the medians and working in the summer Parks and Recreation summer camp programs.

For a city that adds the phrasing “Burlington is a City where people, nature and businesses thrive” to every media release they put out the admission that people are paid that bare minimum has to be at least a little embarrassing.

There wasn’t a word from any member of council on ensuring that the city do better.

Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd

One can’t thrive on the current minimum wage; the new one ($15. an hour) won’t help much.

It was appropriate for both the City Manager Tim Commisso and the Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd to commit themselves  to ensuring that the city would always be above the minimums before they were forced to be by the province.

We didn’t hear that last week.

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Council unable to agree on a budget for 2022 - returning next Thursday to have another go at it

By Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2021



Members of City Council met for two very full days and were expected to adjourn yesterday with a recommendation that would go to a Council meeting on the 14th at which the 2022 budget would be cast in stone.

It didn’t work out that way.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward during the 2022 budget debates.

When the Standing committee recessed yesterday, Thursday, they were able to whittle the Staff proposed tax increase down from 5.45% to 4.95% which wasn’t what they Mayor had in mind.

Mayor Meed Ward wanted a lower number and she wanted council to agree on a number.  The seven members of Councillors were not able to agree on that – worse they were not able to agree on what the recommendation would be.

In order for a recommendation to go to Council there had to be a majority of Councillors voting for it.

The four votes just weren’t there.

Council was stuck – unable to recommend a budget that Council could approve.

Budget Chair Rory Nisan

They figured out a way to recess the budget meeting and return on Thursday December 9th, hoping by that point they would have found the four votes needed to send a recommended budget to Council.  At the close of the meeting – there were just three votes for sending a recommendation to Council.

In Burlington all the heavy debates take place at Standing Committees where they do not make decisions – they make recommendations which are sent to Council where the decision is made.

When things get messy at Standing Committee  meetings they get procedural with amendments, points of order, points of personal privilege and challenges to the Chair.

In a follow up story we will tell what took place; what individual council members wanted and didn’t want and how the Mayor and the Chair of the budget committee wiggled and squirmed to get the result they wanted.

Rory Nisan, Ward 3 Councillor and Chair of the Budget explained his position: “As Chair of the Budget Committee I want to save the budget”.

Several members of Council didn’t think that was his job.

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Mayor chooses not to support budget in Standing Committee

By Pepper Parr

December 2, 2021



A council Standing Committee completed their review of the 2022 budget Staff submitted and did manage to slim it down from 5.45% over last year to a 4.95% increase over last year.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward – looking for a way to get a better budget number – 2022 is an election year.

But the Mayor isn’t happy and said she would not support the budget at this point. Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte took the same position while Councillor Sharman said he was Ok with the increase – saw it as responsible.

Councillor Bentivegna was disappointed that most of his change suggestions didn’t win the support he needed but he was going to live with what was on the table.

Councillor Kearns was impressed with the Committee’s fiscal prudence and Councillor Galbraith was pleased that Council chose to rip the band aid off and put up with the immediate pain rather than continue to kick the can down the path and let a future council deal with the problems.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman

And problems there were – mostly on the Staffing side with some members of Council wanting to limit salary increase while others wanted to reduce staff.

There was a lot of juggling numbers around; taking dollars from the Queensway area Park and letting the downtown Dog Off leach Park group use the funds so they could get their initiative moving forward.

The only true winner was ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman who convinced council to fund the paving of a path in Mohawk Park that serves two schools and a church.  He was ready to approve the budget.

The Mayor has a reputation staked on a lower tax increase – she has about ten days to pull a couple of rabbits out of a hat.

The difficulty appears to be that the Standing Committee may not be able to send a recommendation to Council that approves a budget.  That creates a very tricky procedural problem.

It all comes before Council on December 14th.

No wonder he was so happy.


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Sharman wants to defer a $3 million transit item to take some weight off tax payers shoulders

By Pepper Parr

November 29th, 2021



Each member of Council has the opportunity to put forward a motion that sets out the changes they want to see to the budget staff has put forward.

Keep in mind that taxpayers are looking at a pretty stiff budget increase and that Staff don’t see tax increases falling below 4% a year for the next five years.

Also, keep in mind that 2022 will be an election year.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman looks to transit deferrals to skim more than $3 million from the budget Staff has put before Council.

Keeps a community project in – voters like that kind of thing.

Gone are the days when Councillor Sharman would push hard enough to get a 0% budget increase.

1) Defer by one year the proposed 2022 conventional transit vehicle replacement in the amount of $3,382,000 and retain gas tax funds to partially offset $30m shortfall in annual capital funding.

2) Add funds to tree planting to achieve desired urban forest renewal $100,000

3) Add funds to pave gravel path in Mohawk Park $60,000

4) Remove all 2022 operating budget gapping from new staff positions such as was the case in 2021 along with any other expected un-utilized expenses $190,000 for personnel plus any other expense items.

1) recent review of infrastructure identified that infrastructure renewal funding gap is much larger than the $126m determined in 2016 and is in fact $512m. It is estimated that annual shortfall since 2016 has been about $30m, or about $150m in the 5 years leading up to 2022.

Meanwhile, transit ridership is well below planned/hoped for levels due to Covid and perhaps over optimistic projections to meet long term modal split goals. Keeping buses an additional year over assumed 12-year life span is a viable modest extension given the relatively light ridership utilization generally made more so during Covid years in Burlington.

2) To better support objectives of private tree by-law in increasing urban tree canopy by providing $100,000 to be funded by reducing overhead in item 2 above.

A $60,000 goody for the community

3) The path is used by many parents of young children attending both Mohawk Gardens Public School and St Patrick Catholic Elementary School. During inclement weather the path becomes impassible due to flooding and ice.

4) Partially offset 2022 prior and pending impacts of council decisions $885,666

Outcome Sought:

2022 Budget adjustment

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Nisan wants specific one year staff cuts to the 2022 budget

By Pepper Parr

November 29th, 2021



Each member of Council has the opportunity to put forward a motion that sets out the changes they want to see to the budget staff has put forward.

Keep in mind that taxpayers are looking at a pretty stiff budget increases and that Staff don’t see tax increases falling below 4% a year for the next five years.

Also, keep in mind that 2022 will be an election year.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan wants to direct staff to reduce the budget by removing the following items:

Dedicated operations space for building/bylaw ($110k)
Remove BI (Business information)position ($114k)

Remove bus cleaning/maintain status quo with external contractors ($223k)

Remove committee services, deputy clerk position ($157k)

Manager, total rewards and analytics ($157k)

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan wants to use staff cuts to keep the tax levy down.

Overall rationale:
With COVID-19’s economic impacts, council needs to be more careful than ever in balancing costs for our taxpayers and mitigating organizational risk. The following projects very narrowly weigh towards delays and temporary de-prioritization to provide tax relief for 2022.

Dedicated operations space for building/bylaw ($110k)
I would like this request to be brought forward again for 2023.

Remove BI position ($114k)
I would like this position to be brought forward again for 2023 budget.

Remove bus cleaning/maintain status quo with external contractors ($223k)

I would like this request to be brought forward again for 2023. With lower use of buses at present, we can manage the risk of an inferior outcome in terms of cleanliness for 2022.

Remove clerk position ($157k)
I would like the city manager to seek short term internal support, internal re-assignment, one-time contracting and/or external contracts for projects to mitigate risk. I would like the position to be brought forward again in 2023.

Manager, total rewards and analytics ($157k)
I would like to see this position brought forward in 2023 and if needed that there be internal reorganization and prioritization.

Outcome Sought:
Budget approval.

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Galbraith budget motion memorandum sparse - which is putting it mildly




By Pepper Parr

November 29th, 2021



Each member of Council has the opportunity to put forward a motion that sets out the changes they want to see to the budget staff has put forward.

Keep in mind that taxpayers are looking at a pretty stiff budget increase and that Staff don’t see tax increases falling below 4% a year for the next five years.
Also, keep in mind that 2022 will be an election year.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith frequently cuts to the chase – his response to a budget that has many more than concerned, is brief to the point of being irresponsible.

Any aspirations Galbraith had to be elected Mayor went out the window with his budget reduction response.

Galbraith tends to align himself with the Mayor who, along with Councillor Nisan, creates a block of three votes on a seven member council.  Not enough to hold court.

The people of Aldershot voted for what they thought was an experienced business person who was tuned into the needs of the community.

None of those attributes appear in his budget memorandum.

In his memorandum the Councillor asks his colleagues:

I would like to explore the deferral of purchasing 2 of the 4 buses as our transit usage has been much less than expected during COVID19. The costs of adding the drivers, staff and maintenance follows the adding of buses to our fleets which is driving our budget increase.

With regards to the bylaw officers located within Aldershot arena, I am comfortable with them staying there for the foreseeable future. It was suggested that the room was needed for community use but I do not anticipate demand for this room for a few years.
Outcome Sought:
7 votes in favour.
Does Galbraith no longer want the job of ward councillor?

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Councillor Bentivegna knows where the re-election sweet spot is - pushes for $2 1/4 million in budget cuts

By Pepper Parr

November 29th, 2021



Each member of Council has the opportunity to put forward a motion that sets out the changes they want to see to the budget staff has put forward.

Keep in mind that taxpayers are looking at a pretty stiff budget increase and that Staff don’t see tax increases falling below 4% a year for the next five years.
Also, keep in mind that 2022 will be an election year.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna wants his colleagues to consider removing a number of items from the 2022 Budget.

He has declared his intention to run for office again in 2022. There is at least one rural resident considering a run at the council seat.

Bentivegna has figured out how he can get re-elected.

Maintaining Assets in Recreation Services to meet lifecycle requirements and reduce risk -$100,000

Stabilizing Management Structures and Managing Risk – $585,000 (4 full time staff).

Operationalization of the Bus Cleaning Pilot -$223,000 (7.6 FTE).

Dedicated space for Building Inspection and By-law – $110,000

Gypsy Moth Control Program – $110,000 (one-time)


Not big on overtime pay – likes salary reductions as well – wants to share the pain – speaks for the small business sector

Consideration to reduce Non-union HR increases in the 2022 Budget from 3% to 2% – $640,000

Consideration to reduce Overtime costs estimated at $1,745,517 by 30% from the 2022 Budget resulting in a savings of $523,655.

Consideration to remove tax funding from the 2022 Budget and move to Covid budget:

Additional By-law Enforcement Officers – $232,000 (one-time)

Free Transit for Seniors -$95,000

Rational for reducing impacts of the 2022 budget.

This global pandemic over the last 21 months has had many residents experience financial hardship. The economic impact has caused many families see declines to their household incomes. We have heard repeatedly through our committee Covid updates the result of unfavorable cash flows in our city and residents and businesses needing some type of financial assistance.

Many businesses have reported losses of upwards to 70% and some have shut down.

My experience in discussions with residents and having read the budget survey comments provided to Committee emphasizes the need to take a hard look at reducing this proposed budget increase of 5.45%.

Outcome Sought:
Reduction of $2,276,655 of on-going costs and $342,000 of city one-time costs.

Bentivegna has positioned himself as the voice of the small business operator.  Ward 6 has a significant number of rural residents who seem to have been forgotten in his budget reducing requests.

Spoke for the the small independent sector

Pushing for a two and a quarter million dollar reduction is a stretch – it will be interesting to see how his council colleagues respond.

Even if he doesn’t get support on any of his suggestions – he will come out of it as the Councillor who wants smaller tax increases.

Bentivegna has figured out what the public wants to hear in an election year.

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Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte sets out where she wants to see cuts made in the budget - Rainbow community takes a bit f a hit

oBy Pepper Parr

November 29th, 2021



Each member of Council has the opportunity to put forward a motion that sets out the changes they want to see to the budget staff has put forward.

Keep in mind that taxpayers are looking at a pretty stiff budget increase and that Staff don’t see tax increases falling below 4% a year for the next five years.
Also, keep in mind that 2022 will be an election year.

How much fiscal prudence and how much political skin is there in the Stolte budget change proposals?

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte set out the changes she wants to see.

Motions for Council to Consider:
1) Pride (Rainbow) Crosswalks
Remove $45,000 in funding for three additional Rainbow Crosswalks that are addition to the 4 that have already been committed and encourage community groups to engage and fund raise for future installations.

OR for further consideration:

Rename and repurpose the $45,000 to fund public art installations that support additional marginalized groups in the community (ie. a “Seven Feathers Crosswalk” in support of our First Nations/Indigenous community)
And Direct the Director of Roads, Parks and Forestry to generate “City of Burlington Decorative Crosswalk Guidelines” to ensure consistency for future funding requests of this nature.
2) Dedicated operations space for Building Inspection and By-law Staff
Remove $110,000 from proposed Risk Mitigation Measures budget increase.
3) Sherwood Forest Community Centre Facility 
Recommit previously approved funding, 2022-2024 capital funding totaling $6.2 million as well as 2022-2023 capital reserve funding totaling $600,000 to the Capital Infrastructure Reserve Fund until such time as the plan for cost sharing is approved by Council and the applicable Joint Venture Groups can provide documentation confirming feasibility of financial commitment.

4) School Playground Improvement Strategy 
Transfer $550,000 from the capital budget for School Playground Improvement Strategy to the Park Dedication Reserve Fund to assist with future strategic Halton District School Board land acquisitions and;
Direct the Office of the City Manager to re-negotiate the Agreement with the Halton District School Board regarding the use of City tax dollars to replace playgrounds on private HDSB property.

1) The competitive bid process for the three additional Rainbow Crosswalks approved in 2021 resulted in a cost of $27,324 for crosswalk markings at the 3 locations. An additional cost of $32,000 was realized as a result of repaving required at 2 of 3 locations in order to maintain integrity of the markings
for a total of $59,324 or $19,775 per crosswalk.

Mayor Meed Ward has put a lot of her political capital on the Rainbow Crosswalks – that capital could be at risk.

The LGBTQ2S+ community in Burlington feels very welcomed and supported with the four new Rainbow Crosswalks around the City of Burlington and greatly appreciates that with the addition of these four Rainbow Crosswalks Burlington now, proudly, has more Rainbow Crosswalks per capita than any other community in the country.

The City of Burlington strives to be a place of diversity and inclusion and to that end the residents of the city are widely supportive of this funding being repurposed to include additional valued community groups and initiatives.

2) While the rationale for dedicated space for the Bylaw and Building Department needs are sound, it is premature to commit $110,000 to new leased space when the required space within existing City owned facilities has not been determined based on remote work arrangements. Efforts to confirm and consolidate existing City owned space allocations needs to be completed before committing to newly leased space.

3) Funding for projects that require Council approved cost sharing arrangements should not be committed until such cost sharing arrangements are confirmed.

Additionally, applicable Joint Venture Groups should be required to provide confirmation of feasibility of financial commitment before commitment of capital assets.

4) Upkeep, maintenance and improvements on properties owned privately by the Halton District School Board should be funded through Provincial Ministry of Education funding.

Will Councillor Kearns, on the left, second the Motion Councillor Stolte brings to the debate this week

Stolte now has to find a member of Council to second her motion.

This Budget Memorandum approach is different – it will be interesting to see how the other members of Council react to what Stolte has proposed.

2022 is an election year and members of this Council are going to have to defend the increases.

This just not a sustainable number – where will the cuts be made?

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The five year budget simulation doesn't do much to lessen the tax burden

By Staff
November 29th, 2021
Elsewhere in today’s news (these will follow) there will be memorandums from each member of Council on the changes they would like to see in the budget they are considering this week
As part of the budget exercise city council will be going through this week there is a five year simulation on what the public can expect – the assumption being that there will be no radical changes in the economic environment.
Not exactly something you can bet on.
To start – have a look at the tax levy numbers – they are not a pretty picture.

You might want to clip that and put it on the fridge -beside the “Burlington is the best city in Canada to live in.
The purpose of the simulation is to resent a 5year operating budget forecast as part of the City’s longterm planning.

The City’s LongTerm Financial plan contains the following key strategic objectives for the city:
1. Competitive Property Taxes
2. Responsible Debt Management

3. Improved Reserves and Reserve Funds

4. Predictable Infrastructure Investment

5. Recognized Value for Services

This simulation uses the 2022 proposed budget as a starting point and
adjusts the 20232027 forecast based on estimated budget drivers, information gathered in the Service Information Workshops and forecasted Operating budget impacts resulting from Capital projects.

As with any modeling tool, the simulation forecast has the greatest precision in the first year. It is imperative that the results are simply used as an information tool regarding major budget drivers and future projected tax impacts. It provides an analysis of what the future financial picture for the City of Burlington may look like, helps assess financial risks and the affordability of existing services and capital investments, and provides an
opportunity to analyze sensitivities to assumptions.

Magnitude and duration of COVID impacts

Senior Government Grant Programs

Changes in economic conditions and market demands

Fluctuations in customer expectations

Legislative changes

Reassessment impacts

Operating impacts from approved capital initiatives

Business process improvements

Climate change impacts

Staff have shown a realistic scenario where assessment growth is maintained at 0.6% in 2023, increasing to 0.75% in 2024 and then remaining steady at 1.0% for years 2025 2027. These estimates are based on future development projections including an allowance for assessment appeals. Infrastructure renewal funding is consistent with the 2021 Asset Management Financing Plan Update and repurposing of the hospital levy to infrastructure renewal as the commitments for the hospital decline.

These components provided the basis for estimating budget drivers and include the following assumptions within each item:

Maintaining Current Service Levels Base Budget

Inflationary Impacts and User Fees
With the exception of human resources and commodities (hydro, water, fuel etc.), 2.0% inflation per year has been applied to other expense categories (materials
and supplies, purchased services) and 1.75% increase per year applied to contributions to Local Boards and Committees.

Most User Rates and Fees are assumed to increase at 2.0% per annum, which is dependent on the nature of the revenues and external market conditions.

However, included in years 2023 and 2024 is an estimated normalizing of
revenue based on shift in consumer behavior and ongoing operational impacts postCOVID, resulting in projected revenues losses of $500,000.

Corporate Expenditures/Revenues

An annual increase to the provisions for Insurance and Contingency Reserves of $50,000 each.

An increase in Investment Income of $50,000 per year starting in 2024 subject to a moderately increasing interest rate environment.

Additional Base Budget Expenses
The simulation highlights larger scale base budget pressures for additional detail. The main drivers are the ongoing market competitiveness initiative with a phased funding plan of $1M from 2023 thru 2025 and the $280K reversal of the onetime funding provided in 2022 to address the shortfall in assessment growth is shifted to the tax base.

Impacts of Prior Council Decisions
As some decisions approved in prior budgets have financial impacts than span further than one year, the model identifies these under Impacts of Prior Council Decisions.

These include:
Tax base support for Tyandaga (2023 & 2024) 
Revisions to the Private Tree Bylaw fee structure (2023)

Impacts of Previously Approved Capital Projects
There is an estimated $1.7M in funding required to meet Corporate Infrastructure and Software needs over 20232027. Funding schedules align with Information Technology forecasts.

Infrastructure Renewal Funding
An annual increase of 1.6% from 2023 to 2027 for Dedicated Infrastructure Renewal Funding. This provides funding for capital renewal, as per the 2021 
Asset Management Financing Plan.

Includes the repurposing of the hospital levy to infrastructure renewal in 2023 ($150K), 2025 ($110K) and 2027 ($2.84M)

An annual increase of 4% to the Vehicle Depreciation Reserve Funds to sustain the City’s fleet and equipment inventory Risk Mitigation Measures
Key investment priorities identified in the simulation are classified within the 3 categories highlighted below.

Sustaining City Operations and Financing
Funding for the maintenance of Recreation facilities

As outlined in Business Case 2022039, Maintaining Assets in Recreation Services to Meet Lifecycle Requirements and Reduce Risk, staff estimate a $700K funding shortfall to adequately maintain Recreational assets. In 2021, a phased approach was endorsed, allocating $100K in each of 2021 and 2022, with the balance phased in over 5 years 20232027 in $100K intervals.

Improved investments in Forestry operations
As communicated in the Service Information Workshop, Urban Forestry faces funding challenges to address the level of service required for pest management and tree planting initiatives. As such, the simulation assumes a $100K increase in expenses in each year from 20232026 and a provision to a Forestry Reserve Fund of $350K in 2027 to be used toward future funding gaps and new initiatives.

OMERS for Part Time Staff
Effective January 1, 2023 part
time/temporary/casual employees will have the option to enroll in OMERS without a waiting period. In the past, these employees had to meet specific hours of work or earnings criteria for a twoyear period to have the option to join. Both the criteria and twoyear waiting period will be removed effective January 1, 2023.

At this time, it is hard to predict how many employees will take advantage of this change. To inform the multiyear budget simulation, Finance has modelled the impact at various levels of participation and it is estimated that the impact will be $420K based on a participation rate of 67%.

Designing and Evolving Our Organization
The forecast includes the continued phased implementation of the Designing and Evolving Our Organization (DEOO) initiative to be implemented over the period 2023 2027.

Enhancing Services
Investment in Transit services

Does Burlington Transit need new buses ?

As per the Capital Budget and Forecast and in alignment with the 5 year Transit Business Plan, the forecast assumes an additional $836K in annual expenses for 8 Transit drivers in each year from 20232026 and $135K for a Specialized Transit driver in 2023 and in each year 20252027.

This is based on the purchase of the vehicles through the capital budget the year prior to the operating expenses being realized.

Provision to Green Initiatives Reserve Fund
In April 2019, Council declared a Climate Emergency. Burlington’s Draft Climate Action Plan identified a number of initiatives to assist the City in reducing its overall carbon footprint.

As part of the city’s reserve and reserve fund review report (F2820) the city created a Green Initiatives Reserve Fund.  The simulation includes an estimated $550K in provisions to the Green Initiatives Reserve Fund over 20242027.

As we move forward, the city will need to carefully balance the increasing costs associated with being more environmentally conscious against the city’s other funding demands.

The upgrades to the Skyway arena show some of the best forward planning the city has done – the challenge is to get it funded.

Skyway Arena Revitalization
Enhancements at Skyway Arena lead to an operating budget impact of $304K in 2024.

Modifications to Service to address COVID

The simulation includes an estimated $500K in lost revenues over 2023 and 2024 as ongoing operational impacts postCOVID and a longerterm shift in consumer behavior impact City operations.

Allowance for Unknown Factors
As with all forecasts, it is imperative to recognize that there are unknown factors that will likely occur in the future that could impact the model. In order to address these unpredictable factors, an amount of $150K has been included in the 2024 forecast,
increasing by $50,000 per year until 2027. This allowance has been included to recognize that factors in the simulation such as future efficiency savings and assessment growth can be increasingly difficult to predict the further out into the future they are.

The 5 Year forecast is a tool that provides a highlevel summary of major budget drivers and the expected tax impacts. This will be helpful to establish future budget targets, as well as provide the ability to undertake tax impact sensitivity analysis should circumstances change.

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A 609 day roller coaster ride - and it isn't over yet

By Pepper Parr

November 17th, 2021



Taking a long look at the bigger picture and looking back at what the city has gone through in, as Executive Director Sheila Jones put it – a 609 day Journey – calls for a pause and the question – what’s next?

While we all seem to think that “normal” might be returning no one is set yet to bet real money on a date.

Once a month Council gets taken through a report the Emergency Coordination Group (ECG) uses to advise on what has been done, where the city is financially – tax collections are good and revenue losses as a result of the pandemic are stabilizing.

The city is still in a State of Emergency and no one is certain just when that is going to come to an end and what the process will be to get back to the normal we once knew.

A graphic was put up on the screen – this is where we have been.

Just ups and then down – city hall has managed to keep the wheels on the wagon and on balance has done a good job. The wear and tear on staff has been significant.

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A tighter look at what your tax dollars are spent on

By Pepper Parr

November 5th, 2021



Budget building is an art and a dance that involves Staff and the members of Council.

Staff understand how municipalities work.  They don’t have a bottom line that they have to meet – they do strive to provide great service – but they need funds to do that – and they aren’t shy about asking.

Set out below are the services the city performs.

How much of your tax dollars go to each of the services. That data is also available. Do you feel you are getting value for the tax dollars spent delivering that service to you?

Notice that they talk in terms of millions of dollars

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Getting public response to what City Manager calls a 'difficult budget'

By Pepper Parr

November 4th, 2021



During the days before the pandemic got a grip on the world some members of the public would gather in a public place and go over literature on the budget that was being proposed.

There was never an opportunity to change any of the numbers but there were lots of chances to ask questions.

Carol Gottlob who was a candidate in ward 4 and Angelo Bentivenia a candidate in ward 6 – both lost the first time around – would show up for public budget meetings.

Attendance at these budget Public Information events was sporadic. During those occasions when there was to be a municipal election the attendance was very good.  People planning on running for council would all sit at the same table and busy themselves with how their candidate would manage the budget.

Those years when there wasn’t a municipal election coming attendance was sparse.

It was a cold winter night, snow was falling. The city had called a budget presentation event. No one showed up except for a couple of people who had run for office and wanted to stay in the loop. The Mayor hung around for a while then left. Staff packed up their equipment and headed home. The event took place at the Mainway community centre. Less than 20 yards away the arena was close to packed with parents watching their kids play hockey. The budget that set out how much of their tax money would be spent on recreation services was something they didn’t appear to be of or concerned about.

One evening, it was snowing and except for two council hopefuls – nary a soul showed up.  That evening right next door was a rink filled with parents watching their children playing hockey.

This time around the communications people are doing their best.

There were full day Council Workshops where Service Presentations were given by staff.  They were intense and took place on September 22, 23, 28 & 30, 2021.

Today the Budget Overview took place.  Staff set out what they saw as necessary and yes there were a number of asks as well.

A bit of discussion took place related to a position in the Clerk’s Office that was understood to be needed.  Discussion on that job came to a quick end  when City Manager Tim Commisso explained that the job had already been filled.

The FTE (Full time employee) number is going to grow by an additional 70 people during 2022.  That’s above the 14+ that are going to be hired by the Planning department – those 14+ positions will be covered by fees paid by developers to have their applications approved.

There will be a Virtual Budget Townhall to be emceed by the Mayor on November 22, 2021.

The CSSRA Standing Committee will do a 2022 Budget Review & Approval on November 30 & December 2, 2021

It all goes to Council for Budget Approval on December 14, 2021.

There is one rather interesting change to the way members of Council can influence the budget directly. There was in the past a BAR form (Budget Action Request) that members of council would fill in setting out where they felt cuts could be made or additions made.  Council members would use the BAR form to promote something they wanted to see done in their ward.

This year they are being asked to prepare and submit a memo setting out their rationale for proposed budget amendment(s).  This was to increased transparency for the public.  Those memorandums would be summed up reflecting all the proposed changes.

Those memorandums are due in the Finance Department by 4pm on November 23.

Not sure where the idea of the memorandums came from – it will certainly stretch the capacity of at least three current council members.


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Reserve funds, those rainy day dollars, are in very bad shape. No plan for repairing them either

By Pepper Parr

November 4th, 2021



Municipalities cannot show a deficit. They can’t go broke either.

If their finances are suspect the province moves in and takes over.

What municipalities do is set aside money for those rainy days. Well run municipalities that are financially prudent, and the current finance leadership is prudent,  as is the City Manager who struggles to impress upon Council the need to be more responsible when it comes to protecting the reserve accounts..

Early in the current council’s term of office at least two of the city reserve funds took a hit.
Four million was taken from the Hydro Reserve fund to pay for the wave break needed at the LaSalle Marina.

During the 2022 Budget Overview that took place Wednesday Council was shown the condition of the reserve funds

These are not healthy numbers.

The practice in Burlington has been to put10 to 15% of net revenues into Stabilization reserve accounts.

Currently the best the city has been able to do is set aside just 10.4%

Municipal old-timers like Tim Commisso and Joan Ford know all too well how foolish this practice is.

Councillor Paul Sharman has in the past refused to vote for budgets that chip away at reserve accounts.

The five newbies don’t have enough experience to fully realize how dangerous the approach the current Mayor has chosen to live with.

To be short $60 million in the Capital Reserve fund borders on recklessness.

There are no words for Councillors that do not put in place a long term plan to cover the shortfall of more than $70 million on corporate and other reserve funds.

One suspects that some members of this council assume that at some point all those high rise towers that they swore they didn’t want to see get approved would some day bring home all kinds of commercial and residential taxes that would solve all the problems.

And we elected them – didn’t we?

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Budgets are a numbers game: which ones do you want?

By Staff

November 3rd, 2021



Budgets are a numbers game – for members of Council it is a real life situation that they have to deal with and then explain to the people that elected them.

In order to explain what they are faced with Council members have a series of visuals that set it all out.

On the left they list four factors that impact the budget and tell you (the orange ball) what the impact on the budget is.

On the right they do the same thing with four other factors and use that orange ball to tell you what the impact is on the budget.

Then they add another graphic to show what the tax increase is going to be to that point.

They aren’t done yet. Consideration has to be given to the risks involved in running a city.   Three more factors are added and another orange ball to tell you what the impact is going to be on the budget.

Add in the cost of risk mitigation factors.

And there you have it – the final tax increase number. And with that you now know what the 2022 budget exercise is going to be all about.

What do you cut where to get a number Council can live with and still get re-elected and something the public will swallow.

No one seems to think that 5.45% increase will sit all that well with the voters.

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Are the budget deliberations going to be the first skirmish in the battle for the Chain of Office ?

By Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2021



Taxes are about politics – good government service comes after that.

The four year average amounts to 4.14% – nothing to brag about but with inflation hitting that level – might it be acceptable?

You get elected when you lower taxes and fake the delivering of service as best you can.

Burlington changed the way and frequency that it collects leaves and then citizens fight like crazy with those who want to cut down the trees so they don’t have to rake them up or they want to put in a swimming pool.

In the fourth year of a term of office the practice is to lower taxes just enough to show that you care and add a service or two that doesn’t cost all that much,

Some will argue that COVID19 changed those practices.

When the public sees just how much money the city got from the federal and provincial governments they will wonder why taxes are predicted to increase by 5.45% over last year.

The four year tax run for the current council is not encouraging.  Is this a tax and spend government?

Too early to tell.

Sharman will experience some indigestion

Mayor in waiting Paul Sharman will tell you, even if you don’t ask, that during his first year as a member of Council he pushed for a 0% increase – and got it.

Sharman will experience some indigestion over the Mayor in Waiting title; he’s not modest – just strategic.

How the rest of council are going to explain the increase will be interesting to watch.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. was seen as unbeatable when she ran for Mayor the first time – has the music changed? Will a budget be her undoing?

The Mayor has already staked out her position – the budget they will be looking at on Wednesday is a “staff wish list” – that’s what the Mayor is reported to have said during her CMHL 15 minutes of fame bit last week.

During this four-year period, the city’s budget included the 1.25% infrastructure levy to direct towards the growing infrastructure funding gap while at the same time provided significant investments in Transit, By-law Enforcement and Forestry.

Add to the mix interest former Mayor Rick Goldring has shown in matters civic.  This could be very interesting.


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Budget deliberations begin: Mayor doesn't appear to like what is to be presented

By Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2021



Work to determine the City of Burlington’s 2022 budget continues. An overview of the budget will be presented to Council at a virtual Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 9:30 a.m. The overview will include a look at the proposed 2022 operating budget as well as the 2022 capital budget and forecast.

Key areas of focus for the proposed 2022 budget
Each year, during the City’s budget process, decisions are made to ensure an appropriate balance between affordability, maintaining service levels and financial sustainability over the long term.

The proposed 2022 budget focuses on:

  • Mitigating the financial impacts of COVID-19
  • maintaining service levels
  • ensuring city assets are maintained in a good state of repair
  • continuing to provide strategic investments aligned to the City’s work plan, 2018 to 2022: Vision to Focus
  • upholding legislative requirements while ensuring competitive property taxes.

Proposed capital budget
The proposed 2022 capital budget is $77.3 million, with a ten-year program of $829.5 million. From this total:

  • 68.5% is for infrastructure renewal
  • 15.1% goes towards growth-related projects
  • 12.8% is for new/enhanced projects
  • 3.6% goes towards green projects which support the City’s climate goals.

Proposed operating budget
The proposed 2022 operating budget is $284.8 million and includes new funding to support:

  • Sustaining city services ($685,333)
    • Additional funding for on-going recreation facility maintenance to meet lifecycle requirements and reduce risk
    • One-time funding to support a Gypsy Moth spraying program in 2022
    • One-time funding to extend the contracts of two bylaw officers
  • Enhancing services ($199,130)
    • Funding to make the free transit for seniors pilot a permanent program
    • Operating expenses to support the new Orchard Community Hub
  • Modifications to services to address COVID-19 ($332,733)
    • Funding to make the bus cleaning pilot program permanent
    • Dedicated operations space for building inspection and bylaw enforcement staff.

There was a time when citizens met and discussed the budget options – COVID19 is being used as the reason for not being able to do that this year.

Proposed tax increase
When combined with the estimated regional and education tax levies, the overall projected tax increase for a Burlington homeowner in 2022 is 3.18% or $24.76 per $100,000 of assessment. For example, homeowners with a home assessed at $500,000 would pay an additional $123.80 per year or $2.38 per week. This represents a 5.45% increase to the City’s portion of the tax bill.

In a statement reported to have been made by Mayor Meed Ward last week the budget and its tax increase was described as a Staff wish list and would not be passed.  Staff do not appar to have gotten that memo.

A copy of the proposed budget for 2022 will be available online.

Public Input

To gather feedback from residents about how municipal services are valued and which ones are a priority for residents, the City hosted an online budget survey from July 5 to Sept. 30, 2021. A total of 539 responses were received.

Survey results:

  • 71.7% indicated they are satisfied with the services provided by the City of Burlington
  • 64.5% rated the value they receive for their tax investment as good or very good
  • 70.3% said it is important to them for funding to be put aside for infrastructure renewal
  • 86.3% said it is important to them to set aside additional funding to address potential future emergencies like a pandemic or natural disaster.

Get Involved Burlington also features an interactive budget simulation tool where residents and taxpayers can show the City how they would balance the budget. Users can increase and decrease funding for different City service areas as they see fit while still maintaining a balanced budget.

Virtual 2022 Budget Town Hall – Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. – Save the Date

An additional opportunity for public input on the 2022 budget will be held on Monday, Nov. 22, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. during a virtual town hall hosted by Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. The live, online meeting provides residents an opportunity to learn more and ask questions to City staff about the proposed 2022 budget priorities.

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