Council getting a look at a lot of bad financial news - they have to depend on what the federal government is going to come through with

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 11th, 2020



It has been a tough week for members of Council.

They have been dealing with normal day to day business; looking at some fascinating tools related to win and shadow studies and trying to get a handle on just what the lock down is doing to the local economy.

Burlington Hydro reported on how much of a financial hit they have taken.  Their numbers are not that bad – and they have only cut off service to one location for non-payment.

The Tourism people talked about the vacancy rates.

tourism Pam Belgrade

The data was obtained from a screen shot of material that was shown to members of council who were meeting in a virtual session.

And the finance people are looking at where we are likely to be financially when this is all over – and at the same time casting an eye on what the 2021 budget might look like.

losses graph

This graph sets out the revenue lost from the shut down of programs and fees tat were not paid

savings mitigation graph

This graph shows what the city has done to offset as much of the revenue loss as possible.

Director of Finance Joan Ford produced two graphs that set out what the financial picture looks like.  The biggest financial draw has been for transit where there is no revenue and a lot of expense.


Neither mall has paid their taxes – the city is expecting them to be caught up by the end of June.

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Late in the year but Council approves the collection schedule for the taxes that are levied. You may not see numbers like this for awhile

Budget 2020 redBy Staff

May 27th, 2020



Burlington City Council Monday evening approved the 2020 Tax Levy Bylaw.

The bylaw allows the City to bill 2020 property taxes and set payment due dates for final tax bills on Aug. 20 and Oct. 20, 2020. Final tax bills will be mailed in early July.

That may sound a little confusing. City Treasurer Joan Ford explains.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data ad her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well. It's the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn't do the spending.

Director of Finance Joan Ford found a way to provide some tax relief for people pressed financially during the Pandemic.

“We have two property tax billings mailed out each year – Interim and Final

“The bills are mailed out in January for Interim and normally in May for Final (this year the final bills are being mailed out in July instead of May)

“Each billing has two installment due dates

Here is where it gets tricky. The COVID19 Pandemic and the crisis it created resulted in the city giving people more time to pay their taxes.

The February payment stood as it was; the April payment was moved to June 30th (they called it Pandemic relief) That covered the Interim Billing – which is basically the first half of the year.

The June and September payment dates for the Final Billing were moved to August and October.

The 2020 Tax Levy Bylaw reflects the budget processes that determines tax rate for both the City and Halton Region. The province determines the education tax rates.

The overall city property tax increase is 2.43 per cent or $18.03 for each $100,000 of urban residential assessment. Tax impacts will vary by property based on actual changes in the assessed value of the property relative to others.

Interim billing generally represents 50% of last years taxes in which the payment is divided into the two installments.

Final billing represents the remaining 50% plus any budget changes for the city & region and changes in education taxes divided into two installments

The Final tax bill will show what the total taxes are for the year less what was levied earlier in the year as part of interim taxes with the balance split between the two installments.

COVID-19 Property Tax Relief
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Council approved temporary property tax relief which allows businesses and residents additional time to pay their April property tax installment, without incurring late payment charges.

For property taxpayers impacted by COVID-19 who require additional assistance for repayment of the April 21 instalment beyond June 30, the City is offering enrollment in a monthly pre-authorized payment plan.

This plan will provide for monthly withdrawals from Aug. 1 to Dec. 1 to pay the remaining 2020 property taxes (April, August, and October instalments). No penalty or interest is charged for taxpayers enrolled in this plan. Please visit for more information or email to register.

Taxes May 2020

Here is where the tax money collected goes – the city Treasurer collects for the Boards of Education and the Regional government which includes the police.

The City of Burlington collects property taxes for the city, Halton Region and the Halton district school boards. The total combined tax levy for all three entities is approximately $431 million. The city’s levy is $174 million; the city collects $138 million on behalf of Halton Region; and $119 million on behalf of the Halton district school boards. The taxes levied for Halton Region and the Halton district school boards are remitted to them.

Related news story:

Keeping the city solvent when there isn’t much in the way of revenue and expenses unheard of before

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City treasurer does a masterful juggling act keeping the city solvent - municipalities cannot run a deficiit

Budget 2020 redBy Pepper Parr

May 24th, 2020



Joan Ford, the Director of Finance for the city got dealt a bad hand and now has to juggle like crazy to keep the city financially stable

Ms Ford collects the taxes – all the taxes. She collects the city property taxes, the Boards of Education taxes and the Regional government taxes.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data ad her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well. It's the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn't do the spending.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data; her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well.

At predetermined times of the year she sends the appropriate portion of the taxes levied to the people they were collected on behalf of; she has to send them the tax that was levied – even if she didn’t collect it.

Ms Ford explains that “it isn’t all that hard to do because in Burlington the city is able to collect 98% of the taxes levied. In any given year, we are required to remit the amount of taxes levied to the region and the boards of education, regardless of whether all of the taxes have been collected.

For this reason, municipalities that collect the taxes are able to charge penalty and interest to assist with cash flows regarding the non-payment of property taxes.

Historically, the City of Burlington has an excellent property tax collection record, approximately 98% of the taxes levied are collected in the current year.

Joan Ford, the city's Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

Joan Ford, the city’s Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

As part of a presentation Ms Ford recently made to committee/council, she included cash flow projections which consider all payments out ( payroll & property tax remittances) as well as revenues in (property tax collection. The projected June 30th cash flow position is estimated at $20.6M after making the Region of Halton tax remittance of $33.4M for the April installment share of taxes levied.

“The next school board remittance payment is scheduled for Sept 30th deferred from June 30th. The deferral of the property tax remittances by the Region and the Province (for education taxes) has certainly assisted given delayed tax collection for the months of April through June as well as delayed final billing due dates” added Ms Ford.

This is financial juggling at its best.


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The city is in decent shape for the next three months; pretty good for another three months - after that - no one is prepared to comment

News 100 blueBy Staff

April 22nd, 2020



Senior City staff provided an update on the financial impacts of COVID-19 to a city council that was meeting virtually. The Mayor, the City Clerk and a third person in the audio visual room were in the Council Chamber.

Council was asked to endorse a three-month strategy that prioritizes City services to be provided through to the end of June 2020 to maintain critical and essential services for the city.

Council also approved the recommendation that Committee of the Whole meetings be scheduled to help City business continue and moving forward, virtual delegations will now be allowed for members of the public at City Council meetings.

In addition, Council also approved adding an increased penalty of $250 to specific parking infractions that violate COVID-19 bylaws and orders.

Financial impacts of COVID-19
The strategic management of the City budget and finances continues to be a priority. City Council and staff remain committed to fiscal responsibility and accountability and are focused on offsetting all of the COVID-19 related City revenue losses to June 30, 2020 and are looking ahead past July 2020 to mitigate a shortfall at 2020 year-end. The City is closely monitoring and carefully managing the financial impacts of the COVID-19 emergency while at the same time ensuring taxpayers receive good value for City services that continue, as outlined in the three-month work plan.

The city expects to spend less due to facility closures, not having to pay part time workers plus a significant amount on discretionary spending.  They will incur costs of $300,000 on COVID-19 costs

That story is best told in chart form.

Tax supported revenue not coming in

These are funds the city will not be getting due to the shut down of city hall and the closing of many of the services.


Money they dont get - has a reserve

These are funds the city will also not get but for which there are reserves that can be drawn upon.

other ops savings

These are operational savings. Gapping is money budgeted for a job that is vacant.

net financial impact

This suggests the city is short just $200,000


Cash flow proj

Projections are just that – projections. There are all kinds of things that can happen between now and July. Canada Day has been cancelled.

Keep in mind – these numbers get us to end of June – early July.

Will the curve be flattened by then or will the virus make a return when people are permitted to congregate?

Municipalities are required to approve a budget that is balanced, however, the City can have a shortfall or surplus in a given year. A shortfall can be offset by:

• using reserve funds
• increasing taxes in the next year; or
• reducing expenditures during the year of the anticipated shortfall. This is what Burlington is attempting to do to mitigate a shortfall at year-end.

Three-month work plan for COVID-19 Emergency Response Strategy
The City of Burlington COVID-19 emergency response strategy defines the City’s resource needs over the next three-month operating period, to June 30, 2020, to deal with the effects and impacts of the virus on our community and staff. The COVID-19 emergency response strategy and the three-month work plan will be reviewed on a regular cycle to ensure relevancy for operations given the situation and circumstances of this dynamic environment.

Increased parking fines
Council also approved adding an increased penalty of $250 to specific parking infractions that violate COVID-19 bylaws and orders. Current parking penalties related to public health and safety issues such as blocking fire routes, accessible parking, idling and blocking snow operations range from $120 -$400. The add-on $250 penalty is in line with this range and is meant to act as a deterrent to parking in areas that are closed under the City’s COVID-19 State of Emergency. Enforcement officers have been given authority to decide when to apply the additional fee with the goal being education and compliance.

Virtual delegations
At the April 20 meeting, City Council also approved a recommendation to allow virtual delegations from members of the public at Council meetings, beginning in May 2020. For future council meetings, delegates can make a request to delegate to council using the online form or send an email to Delegate speaking notes will need to be submitted to Clerks before the meeting in case there are connectivity issues. Delegates will speak to council virtually via phone or internet connection.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, City Council meetings will continue to be held virtually. During this Council meeting, Mayor Meed Ward was the only member of Council present in Council Chambers along with the City Clerk/designate and an information technology technician. All members of Council participated in the meeting remotely and no members of the public were in attendance.


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Three month work plan goes before council on Monday - it could prove to be very expensive

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2020



City Council will learn from city staff what they expect the financial impacts of COVID-19 will be and seek Council’s endorsement of a three-month strategy that prioritizes which City services will be provided through to the end of June 2020.

Out of those deliberations will come a three-month work plan for the strategic management of the City budget and finances.

A statement from the administration seeks to assure City Council that staff remain committed to fiscal responsibility and accountability and are focused on offsetting all of the COVID-19 related City revenue losses to June 30, 2020 and are looking ahead past July 2020 to mitigate a shortfall at 2020 year-end.

A report detailing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City’s budget will be presented. This report will include:

• estimated revenue impacts of $7.6 million to June 30, 2020
• estimated expenditure savings of $5.2 million to June 30, 2020
• cash flow projections to June 30, 2020
• future financial modelling to identify pressures, dependent on the length of the pandemic, and recovery scenarios.

Municipalities are required to approve a budget that is balanced, however, the City can have a shortfall or surplus in a given year. A shortfall can be offset by:

• using reserve funds
• increasing taxes in the next year; or
• reducing expenditures during the year of the anticipated shortfall.

Burlington is attempting to mitigate a shortfall at year-end.

Meed Ward H&S

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said: “Our City is currently in a good position thanks to savings we’ve acquired through our winter maintenance budget, the result of a light winter, and major tenders that came in under budget.

Ford on gapping

Joan Ford, Chief Financial Officer

Joan Ford, Chief Financial Officer is the one who has to do the numbers juggling. Ms Ford and her team have always been conservative and cautious. She explains that: “In recognition of significant revenue losses such as transit fares, recreation programming and property tax deferrals, an expenditure restraint program was immediately implemented across the City to assist in mitigating the financial impacts.”

Will council listen or will they scour the reserve funds and look for ways to make up the shortfall from that source?

Monday is going to be a long day for city council – how deep their hands go into your pockets in the years ahead will be determined then.

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City records a surplus in the 2019 budget; they call that a favourable variance - most of the upside came from investments

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 9th, 2020



We are not likely to see numbers like these in the 2020 financials – linger over them.

Surplus graphic

Most financial statements use the phrase profit/loss or surplus/deficit. Municipalities are different – they refer to what we know as a surplus as a “positive variance” and what we know as a deficit is a “negative variance”.

Municipalities are not permitted to have a loss – which is why they have reserves; funds they can draw upon when a particular account eats up what the departments had budgeted.

Snow removal is one account that is almost impossible to budget for – the 2014 flood was another example. When they need funds for unexpected events like these – they turn to a reserve fund.

The Tax Stabilization fund is the “piggy bank” that gets tapped frequently. It is also the account that any “surplus” or positive variance gets deposited into.

Where were the budgets over and under from the Strategic Plan viewpoint?

Op budget perf 2019

The four strategic plan pillars – how the budget was allocated.

Spending looked at from a departmental viewpoint.  Where things went well and where things slipped up.

The expensive mistake of getting the Customer Service software in place and operation isn’t reflected in this report – some questions to ask at this level.

The earnings on investment appears to be what made the positive variance.

Does this report give the city finance department an A or a C?

Acct document

Corp rev part 2 of acct doc

The investment revenue sort of papered over the problem areas.

This report provides an overview of the financial performance of the 2019 Operating Budget and additional variance commentary for select services as at December 31, 2019.

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Council learns how to hold public meetings via the internet using webcasts that don't, as yet, have any room for public participation. We do learn that taxes are due in April

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

March 26th, 2020



After completing two Special Meetings of City Council electronically the public is advised that meetings  for the month of April will be done electronically as well.

The first was very short – nine minutes – and a little on the bumpy side.

When the second meeting rolled out it was quite a bite better; the Council members had figured out when to mute the microphones and to speak loudly and directly.

At the close of the second meeting Councillor Sharman had moved into his jocular mode and was rather enjoying himself.

The virtual meetings approach will be used for any Council or committee meetings scheduled in April. The regularly scheduled Council meeting for March 30, 2020 is cancelled.

Next Council meeting and property tax relief
At its next Council meeting, City Council will consider temporary changes to provide relief for the April 21 property tax installment to help residents and businesses experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The temporary changes being proposed would mean that for the months of April and May 2020, with additional extensions being considered on a monthly basis:

• No penalty will be charged for the April 21 installment for all property owners
• No month-end interest will be charged for all property owners
• No non-sufficient fund (NSF) fee will be charged by the City for any returned tax payments
• Pre-Authorized tax payments will continue to be withdrawn. Please note: individuals on a pre-authorized payment plan that are unable to make payment can temporarily suspend their withdrawals from their account by emailing To suspend your withdrawal, the City requires notification at least three business days prior to the withdrawal date.

Taxpayers who sent a postdated cheque to the City for their April tax installment and can no longer make payment are asked to put a stop payment on the cheque at their bank.

We encourage taxpayers to make payments where possible during these unique times. Tax inquiries can be sent by email to or by phone to 905-335-7750.

The two electronic meetings made it clear that debate and discussion is somewhat limited when the seven people are at different locations. Staff participation will be very different.


Mayor Marianne Meed Ward – chairing an electronic meeting of City Council with all the members of Council taking part from their homes, It went very well

Mayor Meed Ward did a good job in keeping things moving along.

When votes were taken each Council member called out Yeah! We can expect that to become a feature of future council meetings when this virus has done whatever it is going to do.

The Region held their meeting electronically as well. The production values for the Burlington web cast were far far superior to what the Region broadcast. Good on Dave Thomson, Burlington audio visual technician – who brings a certain kind of magic to what appears on the monitors in the Council chamber and what is seen on the webcast.

Nothing yet on how public delegations will be handled. They are do-able; all the administration has to do is make their will known

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There is a link between the Hydro need for a bigger line of credit and the wave break being built for the LaSalle Park Marina

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 24th, 2020



City council will be meeting this afternoon for two Special Council meetings that will be held back to back.

LaSalle PArk MArina as it looks today - 219 slips with wave breaker and docks thathave to be brought ashore every winter.

LaSalle Park Marina before the new wave break was approved.

One of the items on the agenda for the second session is giving Burlington Hydro permission to negotiate a bigger line of credit with their bank. The credit limit at the moment is $10 million.

They want to take it to $20 million.

One of the reasons for going to $20 million is the concern that some of the large hydro accounts may not be able to pay their hydro bills due to their own cash flow problems.
The decision to increase the line of credit is prudent.

Joan Ford, the city's Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

Joan Ford, the city’s Treasurer knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent. She would have preferred to see reserve funds kept as reserve.

While they won’t say as much; both City manager Tim Commisso and Treasurer Joan Ford would have liked to seen more in the way of prudence when city council decided to draw down $4 million that was in the Hydro Reserve account a number of months ago.

The uncommitted balance in the Hydro reserve fund at December 31/19 was $8,658,790.

Council decided to pull $4 million out of the reserve fund to pay for the wave break that was needed at the LaSalle Park Marina

Using public money to pay for the wave break was a contentious issue at the time – council took the position that a city on Lake Ontario should have a marina and a wave break was necessary.

Commisso and Ford are old hands at things municipal – they treat reserves the way some treat family heirlooms – you never let them go.

Commisso stare

City manager Tim Commisso.

I could have sworn Tim Commisso was experiencing an upset stomach when the decision was made to raid a reserve account.

It will be interesting to hear what they have to say in the way of comments this afternoon when council approves the decision to approve the increase in the line of credit.

Related news story:

Hydro asking Council to approve a bigger line of bank credit

Get Gaz yellow

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City manager putting in 15 hour days as he maneuvers around a very dynamic changing COVID19 crisis

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 18, 2020



How do you run a city when what you think what was going to be possible when you got to work proves to have changed before lunch. And by that time of day you have handled upwards of 100 emails and attended two critical meetings with two more in the afternoon.

That’s the pace City Manager Tim Commisso has found himself dealing with – and he knows it isn’t going to change any time soon.

virus imageIn an exclusive interview with the Gazette Commisso said “it has been this way since last Thursday” – “focusing on public safety and doing everything possible from an administrative point of view to help stop the spread of the virus.”

Managing virus infections is in the hands of the Hospital with the Regional Medical Officer of Health alongside to ensure that communication with the public is as clear as they can make it.

“The Province is under a State of Emergency – so they call all the shots. Two of my people keep a close watch of what comes out of the federal and provincial offices.”

The job for Commisso is to ensure that he has the resources he needs and is able to allocate them – that changes by the hour.

Treasurer Joan Ford has created special accounts to monitor the spending.

Worn down but not worn out. Burlington Hydro Gerry Smallegange and his chief of engineering talk to people at the Kilbride fire station on what was up and what wasn't yet up in terms of power lines.

Gerry Smallgage, Hydro president has a lot of crisis management experience – he was front and center during the 2013 ice storm.

All the senior staff on the Emergency Control Group are putting in the same long hours. Gerry Smallgage, President of Burlington Hydro, sits in on the ECG meetings as does the Mayor who ensures that members of council are fully engaged.

Commisso reports that about 5% of staff are working from home. He added that there is a certain amount of “apprehension” within city hall but added that “all the senior staff on the Emergency Control Group have worked very hard on our COVID 19 emergency response…very proud of their work as a team especially over the past week.”

We are dealing with a different reality – a situation that is dynamic, changing every time there is a change at the federal and provincial levels.

BTTB - O canada

Burlington Teen Tour Band was cancelled due to concerns over COVID19 in the United States.

“A week ago we cancelled the Teen Tour Band trip to the United States,” said Commisso. “and we did so very reluctantly – there wouldn’t be any reluctance today.

“We are in meetings that run from an hour to four and a half hours; the volume of information is staggering. Work done at the municipal level impacts on almost everyone.

I am in touch with the Regional CAO at least once a day.

Mayor Meed Ward sits in on all critical meetings and attends the meetings at the hospital as well. It is in situations like this where the Mayor excels – she is a Momma Bear when there is a challenge and loves situations where decisions have to be made quickly and a questioning voice is needed.

Coordinating communications is the critical part –people need to know what we are all up against.
“I am currently working within a three week window – keeping a close eye on the resources I have and where I might have to allocate them.”

Commisso stare

City Manager Tim Commisso – 15 hour days.

Asked if he thought this was what the job was going to be when Marianne Meed Ward invited him for coffee – there was a long pause before he said – “I did have six solid weeks of experience getting Thunder Bay through the flood they had while I was CAO there.”

Asked if there were summer vacation plans for the Commisso family in place, Commisso just sighed.

Which raises an important question:  Should Commisso fall ill – who would fill the shoes he wears?

Get Gaz yellow

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Regions to issue debentures for $17 million - $10 million will be for Burlington.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

Feb 25th, 2020



There was an item in a recent Regional Council agenda.

It was the passing of a bylaw that would let finance staff negotiate a $17 million plus debenture which was to meet some of the financial needs of the four municipalities in the Region.

Of the $17,100,000 debenture $10 million of the proceeds goes to Burlington.

Bond approvalThe graphic was a bit of a stunner for Burlingtonians.

In the comments included in the report that went to Regional Council was the following:

Consistent with the current growth environment, measures of inflation are expected to remain around 2 percent. With interest rates presently at low levels and current market conditions favourable the Regional Chair and Commissioner of Finance and Regional Treasurer were authorized to engage the services of CIBC World Markets Inc., RBC Dominion Securities Inc., BMO Nesbit Burns Inc., and/or Scotia Capital Inc. as fiscal agents and enter into all agreements and ancillary documents necessary to secure the terms and issuance of a market debenture issue for all or part of the $17,100,000.

We learned as well that the Region has maintained its bond rating.  Regional Chair Carr takes great pride is telling people that the Region has a better bond rating than the American government.

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City hall Customer Relationships software isn't doing what is was expected to do -neither are the people hired to make it work.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

February 11th, 2020



There is much more background in a report from the Audit committee that will be going to a Standing committee later this week on the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service the city has been struggling to get efficiently operational.

Kearns with Mike

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns – saw some serious problems and didn’t see much in the way of solutions.

The first the Gazette heard that the problems were serious was when ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns reported to her constituents that she was experiencing problems.

The Audit Committee report provides a lot of background. In their report they provide seven audit findings that are cause for concern.

Burlington has been talking about finding a way to communicate more effectively with people – city hall calls them customers, since 2016 when they hired AtFocus Inc., a consulting firm, to help create a Customer Service strategy for the city. The project was given the working title of Service Brilliance – which unfortunately hasn’t exactly shone.

Add to the CRM was a Knowledge Base which combined, was to improve customer service in city services through greater efficiencies in the management of queries, requests and issues.

Most Burlingtonians wanted to stick with the kind of situation where they can just call their Councillor or a staff member and get answers to their questions. That wasn’t the way city hall saw things working. There isn’t a staff directory on the city web site.

The city chose a solution developed by Rock Solid Technologies specifically designed to address CRM in medium to small sized municipalities and is integrated with Microsoft Dynamics. RSTI uses a cloud based hosting provider.

The project has a Steering committee – 9 department directors and the project manager; the city manager is described as the Project Champion.

The team consists of:

Project manager (project dedicated),
Business operations coordinator (project dedicated),
IT business analyst (originally part-time; now project dedicated),
Business lead (part-time from Clerk’s Department),
Business process coordinator (part-time),
Corporate change management lead (originally part-time, now project dedicated),
Communications lead (part-time

The CRM project has faced a long journey to acceptance within the organization. The idea for CRM was first proposed over 10 years ago.

The project began in early 2016 and its place as a corporate project was established in 2017. Since then, the project has experienced several challenges

The project team was originally established within Clerk’s Department and transitioned to the Corporate Strategy and Projects Office in early 2018.

Project Manager –this role has been filled by 4 individuals since the project started in2016. The most recent transition occurred in May 2019.

Business Lead –This role has recently transitioned to a new City employee. The previous business lead had significant corporate knowledge of the project given their role as initial project manager and their involvement in the RFP, vendor selection and privacy impact assessment.

Project Champion –This role transitioned to a new employee in January 2019.  That new employee is the city manager.

Training Lead –This role has recently changed.

Steering Committee –The steering committee was the original Customer Service Steering Committee(since 2015), transitioning to the project steering committee with membership expansion/change in 2018.

Corporate change management lead–this role was assigned to the project, with 20% availability, in early 2018.

Information Technology –the involvement of ITS in the project was limited. While involved in the RFP process and vendor assessment, their involvement in the implementation was focused on integration with existing systems and preliminary security assessments.

The scope of the audit that was done – which is the report being presented to the Standing Audit committee on Wednesday, was limited and specifically excluded the procurement/purchasing process and decision leading to the selection of Rock Solid Technology as the vendor for CRM software and implementation support.

There were seven audit findings.

Governance where performance and responsibility were looked at.

The CRM project charter indicates project oversight by named individuals who are directors of participating departments, managers from partner functions, and the project manager.

Whether a program or a project, clarity of roles, responsibilities and decision-making authority establish the foundation for accountability, improve productivity, save time, minimize conflict and set shared expectations and understanding of the project/program mission and deliverables.

The breadth and depth of discussions, member participation, and meeting frequency are factors contributing to project governance. When any one or all of these factors are not operating as intended, the governance of the project may not be effective.

The current pause in the CRM project implementation provides the opportunity for the steering committee to re-group and consider its mandate and effectiveness including: Definition of broader plans to coordinate and implement initiatives to deliver the Service Brilliance Strategy. Clearly define the roles, responsibilities and authority of the steering committee, project sponsor, and project team members in an updated project charter (or program charter.

Conduct a self-assessment of the Steering Committee’s effectiveness considering quality of information for discussions, meeting attendance and meeting frequency.

Establish a decisions document to track key decisions made by the steering committee, project sponsor, and project manager. This log will also support on-boarding of new steering committee members, project team members and on-going operations.

There is far too much detail in the lengthy staff report for a normal news report.

The problems with the service the city wants to put in place have resulted in a pause until the issues are resolved.

It will be interesting to see what Staff add to the report they want council to receive and what Council has in the way of questions.

The public isn’t happy, staff are not happy; the staff turnover has been alarming.

More once the Audit Standing Committee has met.

Related news story:

Kearns brings up problems with the way constituents deal with the city.

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Is Councillor Bentivegna stuck in a Rodney Dangerfield warp; he just can't get any respect.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

January 28th, 2020



Councillor Angelo Bentivegna just might have caught a break.

While Council was going through some of the BAR reports (Budget Action Requests) that had not been dealt with he pressed once again for a review of the side walk snow clearing the city does – he lost that attempt at Standing Committee and was about to lose it again at Council when the Clerk pointed out to the Mayor that a vote lost at Standing Committee could not be brought up at the following council meeting.

Angelo - not getting it -deferal

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna arguing for a look at who is actually paying for a business license.

The Mayor, as chair of a council meeting decided that she would overrule the clerk and let Bentivegna continue. He then lost that same vote at council.

But his second issue gathered some traction – not enough to win him the votes he needed but it did let him get his point on the table – and it was a very valid point.

Bentivegna believes that there are a large number of commercial and service operations in the city that do not have a business license and this time he had some data to support the contention.

Bentivegna said he had conversations with the Burlington Downtown Business Association (BDBA) people, the Economic Development Corporation and several members of Staff and no one could tell him how many businesses there were in Burlington.

What Bentivegna was about to learn was that revenue from the business license sector was just under $500,000 and that it had not increased between 2018 and 2019.

He concluded from that data that there were about 1800 licenses issued and paid for – and argued that there were perhaps 10,000 businesses operating in the city.

Bentivegna wanted a conversation to take place that would educate the business sector and bring them to the point where they would make a point of getting a license.

Angelo B

Councillor Bentivegna listening to his council colleagues.

The issue got a little muddied when the Mayor commented that the BEDC did have the data on how many businesses there are in Burlington and that the BDBA also knew what the number was.

When it came to a vote – the only person who supported Bentivegna’ s Staff Direction was Councillor Stolte.

So the matter is closed – yet there is that lingering question: what if Angelo Bentivegna is right?

Why not put some effort to determining that question?

Councillor Bentivegna might have wanted to search the Gazette archives to learn how funding requests get handled. In the 2015 budget then Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven wanted one time funding of $35,000 for the Downtown Data Collection Project pulled. “He points out that the original staff recommendation in September 2015 included the following observation: “After considering the staff and funding resources that would be required to collect accurate and useful data to inform the performance indicators and headline measures, staff is of the opinion that the value of obtaining and maintaining such data as a means to evaluating the experience of the downtown may be limited” Remove project and one-time funding of $35,000

Related news story:

Bentivegna gets called out for his treatment of a delegation

Bentivegna thinks city should be going after lost revenue

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City is in good financial shape - but not quite as good as it was in 2018; something this council will want to keep in mind.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 30th, 2019



The city has to contend with the reality of the market – the bank rate (the amount Bank of Canada charges BIG banks for the money they borrow) which means the city pays more for what it borrows – and the city borrows a lot.

Based on the economics of the market, staff, in a report to Council, said they “will maintain the following investment strategies leading into 2020;

• Maintain investments in the City’s long-term portfolio taking the opportunity to invest in new bond issuances. Once the interest rate environment stabilizes, invest in longer durations to maximize rate of return while managing risk to ensure there will not be a liquidity issue to meet commitments.

• Trade bonds for capital gains by taking advantage of market fluctuations generated by economic data. Staff will focus on maximizing capital gains at the appropriate times and reinvest in the market taking advantage of higher interest rates at a longer duration.

Investment income is projected to meet budget for year-end based on the detailed below which is up to and including September 30th.

Financial Sept 30 1

Not meeting the investment targets.

Appendix A, below, shows investment income (interest earned, and capital gains realized) to September 30, 2019 on the total investment portfolio. The net bank position as of September 30, 2019 has increased by $21.7M. This increase is slightly offset by a decrease in the long term portfolio.

The remaining increase is attributed to the receipt of $5.6M from the Federal Government for the one-time top up payment related to the Gas Tax as well as unexpended capital funds allocated to capital projects.

Appendix B provides a listing of the current portfolio by type of investment, and weighted average yield, in accordance with the Ontario Regulation 438/97. In following the City of

Finance - investment portfolio

Appendix B listing of the current portfolio by type

Finance securities position

Appendix A, shows investment income

Burlington’s investment policy, the City can purchase Region of Halton bonds, up to but not greater than, the amount of the debenture issued on behalf of the City. As of September 30, 2019, the City’s investment portfolio included $15.6 million Region of Halton bonds.

As at September 30, 2019 the City’s investment portfolio is compliant with the guidelines set out in the City’s investment policy and goals adopted by the City.


Finance Property taxThe City of Burlington collects property taxes for the city, Region of Halton and the Halton Boards of Education as legislated under the Municipal Act, 2001. Appendix C reflects the property tax status at September 30, 2019 compared to September 30, 2018. The 2019 total levy is $420.6 million compared to $409.8 million in 2018.

Collections for the current taxation year are 93.6%, which is consistent with prior years as highlighted in the chart below and detailed below:

Arrears notices are sent four times per year to aid in collections. In addition to arrears notices, tax collection letters are sent to owners with arrears in both the current year and two previous years; business properties are sent letters in the first quarter and residential properties in the second quarter.

A property title search is undertaken in November on accounts with three years of arrears and any lenders are notified. This results in most accounts being paid.

For those properties that remain three years in arrears, the Municipal Act, 2001 allows for a tax sale process to begin in January. The owner or any interested party has one year to pay out the tax arrears. If arrears remain after the one year period, the city may proceed with a municipal tax sale. Since 2000 there have been seven tax sales in Burlington.

The city offers multiple payment options including three pre-authorized payment plans which provide a convenient and reliable payment method for property owners. Approximately one third (20,000) of all property accounts are enrolled in pre-authorized payment plans.

The big picture:

Finance full statement to Sept 30

Department by department – broken into the four pillars of the Strategic Plan.


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City provides additional detail on the 2020 budget - for a house assessed at $500,000 the tax increase would be $96.70

Budget 2020 redBy Staff

December 20th, 2019



Burlington aerial

Taxes to keep the city operating.

City hall released the following:

City tax increase of 3.99%

The Gazette reported that yesterday.

The approved tax increase of 3.99% includes:

Investments to maintain City services
1.33% to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality services

Investments in infrastructure renewal
1.25% dedicated to the renewal of existing city infrastructure.

Major capital projects in 2020 include:
• Revitalization of the Skyway Community Recreation Complex
• Resurfacing of New Street, between Walkers Line and Burloak Drive
• Repair and renewal of assets at numerous community centres and pool facilities
• Minor reconstruction of Canterbury Drive.

Investments to address climate change impacts
0.82% dedicated to assets and initiatives that support sustainable infrastructure and a resilient environment, including:

Community busses 8-metre-cut-away-bus1

Another Handi-van added to the fleet

• Four new conventional buses and eight additional drivers, plus a new specialized transit vehicle (Handi-Van) and driver
• Free transit for children age 12 and under
• New electric vehicle charging stations at City facilities such as arenas and community centres
• A new private tree bylaw program
• Updates to the Urban Forestry Management Plan and a new tree planting initiative
• Funding to complete a Climate Change Adaptation Plan, support for the Bay Area Climate Change Partnership, and resources to implement the Climate Action Plan.

Investments to address risk management and other corporate priorities

0.59% dedicated to enhancing customer service and supporting the implementation of Burlington City Council’s four-year work plan, Vision to Focus, including:


Staffing needed for the re-vitalized Museum.

• Enhanced parks and winter maintenance operations, including sidewalk snow removal
• Four years of the Home Fire Safety program
• Improvements to cyber security resilience
• Temporary staffing to operate the newly expanded Joseph Brant Museum
• Programming at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre that celebrates all cultures.

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said: “Council and our community should be proud of this budget that focuses on transit, trees, and green infrastructure, among other needs. We had to whittle down requests from Council that would have put us at a 7.5% city-tax increase if they had all been approved. We aimed for enhancing services, renewing aging infrastructure and responding to the needs of a growing community, while keeping your pocketbooks in mind. We made some tough, but strategic decisions for the 2020 budget, and the priorities reflect those of our community.”

Joan Ford, Chief Financial Officer added that: “The 2020 budget focuses on providing strategic investments aligned to the City’s four-year work plan, Vision to Focus, and Burlington’s 25-year Strategic Plan. At the same time, it provides investments to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality services, renewal of Burlington’s aging infrastructure, and funding for new community programs and initiatives.”

The total annual increase to property taxes for a home assessed at $500,000 is $96.70.

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Council was half an hour short of approving a budget Monday night.

Budget 2020 redBy Pepper Parr

December 16th, 2019



Mayor with Civic bling

Mayor Meed Ward, sporting her civic “bling” ran a tight council meeting – was challenged twice on decisions she made and missed completing the budget – ran out of time.

They started at 6:30 – went without a break and listened to 11 delegations – then they jumped into the 2020 budget with the hope that they could nail that but they ran out of time.

This city council has a hard adjourn at 10:30

No one is all that clear as to just where the budget increase is – it was at 3.99 then looked like it could drop to 3.5.

There was $800,000 for the eight bus drivers that will be needed for the four new buses that are due in September.

Burlington Transit getting new buses - to deliver less service.

The practice with the previous council was to have staff line up at the transit offices on Harvester Road and applaud as a new bus broke through a red ribbon.

Several council members felt that there was no need to budget for a full year’s expense when the buses weren’t going to be delivered until the fall. They decided that they would budget just $400,000.

There were other savings, small ones, and there were a number of items that Councillor Sharman had hoped would benefit his constituents. He couldn’t get the support of his colleagues on either of them.

The Clerk’s office is now going to look at the individual council members’ calendar and find the half hour to an hour that is going to be needed to get this budget passed so everyone can get away for some earned and deserved holidays.

A detailed report will follow once we know when they are going to meet.

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Tax increase still at 3.99%; Mayor wants to keep it there - couple of Councillors seem prepared to let it rise - even if just a bit.

Budget 2020 redBy Pepper Parr

December 12th, 2019



Meed Ward style

The Mayor is rock solid on holding the budget increase to 3.99% over last year’s 2.99%

It’s still a 3.99% tax increase with the very real chance that it will go up to 4.35% which the Mayor is really, I mean really opposed to – others don’t seem as fussed about something higher than the 3.99%

It’s all about optics, girls and boys – and speaking of optics, why did three council members have something else they just had to get to and excused themselves for a period of time.

Mayor Meed Ward said “Gotta make tough choices – you know where I am coming from.”

Councillor Stolte asked aloud if the lens they were looking at the budget with was a 3.99% or was it the merit of the item that was being debated.

Pedestrian crossg

Spending on upgrading pedestrian crossings to make clear the point that the street and roadways are for people. That item got cut.

Money to be spent on pedestrian cross walks got whittled down from $200,000 to $100,000 and eventually settled at $30,000.

Kearns at podium

Councillor gave up the Chair for an hour but returned.

Sharman hand to head

Councillor Sharman left and didn’t return.

Councillor Kearns scooted out for an hour, Councillor Sharman disappeared at about 1 pm and didn’t return.

Councillor Galbraith said he had to go but managed to hold it. So it was really just two out of the seven,

Budget is the reason they are there – no excuse for having to attend some other “scheduled” event.

Director of Finance Joan Ford pointed out that this Council managed to pass two budgets in the same calendar year – true, and this council worked hard at shaving a thousand or two here and another thousand there.

They adjourned for the day at about 3:30 pm and will be back at it on Monday. A round up of what got approved and what didn’t make the cut will follow later in the day.

There was one motion put on the table – and no one voted for it. Not sure how that happened – doesn’t the mover of the motion have to vote for it?  (No, they don’t – getting it on the table is sometimes the only way to debate its merits.)

The Procedural Bylaw is something Councillors are going to have to spend more time reading; several don’t know the rules and that slows things down.

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Working towards a 4% tax increase - some expensive ideas being floated.

Budget 2020 redBy Pepper Parr

December 10th, 2019



On Tuesday and Thursday of this week council is going to go through documents and approve the 2020 operating budget including any budget amendments approved by the Committee of the Whole – Budget to be applied against the proposed net tax levy amount of $173,635,179; and

Approve the 2020 capital budget for the City of Burlington, with a gross amount of $85,791,551 with a debenture requirement of $7,613,145, and the 2021-2029 capital forecast with a gross amount of $723,878,943 with a debenture requirement of $47,592,200

Administer the debenture in the amount of $6,113,145 in 2020 as tax supported debt; and

Administer the debenture in the amount of $1,500,000 in 2020 as special circumstances debt; and

Declare that, in accordance with sis. 5(1)5 of the Development Charges Act, 1997 and s. 5 of Ontario Regulation 82/98, it is Council’s clear intention that the excess capacity provided by the above-referenced works will be paid for by future development charges.

Then they will send it all to a December 16th council meeting when we will learn if they were able to keep the tax increase for 2020 is kept at the 4% level.

The proposed 2020 operating budget is $173.6 million and the 2020 capital budget is $85.8 million, with a ten-year program of $809.7 million.

The capital program focuses on the city’s infrastructure requirements to address the much-needed renewal of these assets in the most cost-effective manner. The budget reflects incremental tax supported funding of 1.25% ($2.075 million) from the operating budget to support the city’s infrastructure requirements.

Approval of the 2020 budget will establish the authority for preparing the 2020 Tax Levy By-law. For each $100,000 of residential assessment, this translates into an overall increase of $19.38.

Two days of hard slogging – and then finding a way to explain why inflation sits at the 2.5% level but the city needs a 4% increase over last year to pay the bills.

City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

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Council members get a chance to promote their pet projects - some want to spend spend, others want to save.

Budget 2020 redBy Pepper Parr

December 10th, 2019



City Council will meet today and Thursday to crunch the budget numbers and deliver a budget that has a municipal tax increase of as close to 4% as they can keep it.

There is a lot of spending – staff has to be paid and services delivered.

Each budget season Councillors are given blank Budget Action Request (BAR) forms upon which they can write in changes they would like to see to the budget.

Given that last year was their first year at budget making we didn’t see much in the way of creative spending.

This time around they know more and have come up with things they would like to see done for the betterment of the city as well as things that will help in a future election.

Shawana Stolte 1

Councillor Shawna Stolte – the big spender in this budget.

In the previous two councils Marianne Meed Ward was usually the lead with things she wanted to see money spent on.

A total of 67 BAR requests were filed: Galbraith 4; Kearns 13; Nisan 11; Stolte 12; Sharman 12; Bentivegna 9 and Meed Ward 6.

Stolte took the prize for the biggest spend – she wanted to see a tax levy of $2,075,000 dedicated to the electrification of public transit. This whopping sum on transit sets out just how much the attitude towards transit has changed – there was a point when the city didn’t have a transit advisory committee and had a Councillor who wanted people to have to undergo a means test to get half price tickets.

Sharman - Bentevegna + Stolte

Councillor Sharman, centre. appears to want to have nothing to do with the chit chat between Bentivegna and Stolte.

Transit cuts and additions got the most attention; Sharman wanted to defer all spending on new buses until there was a transit business plan in place: savings $789,737. Kearns wanted to save that same amount of money by taking away the delegated authority the Director of Transit has to buy electric buses until there was a workshop outlining the feasibility of a green transit fleet. Stolte wanted to remove four operators, at a savings of $394,869 and spend that money on two electric vehicles.

Sharman hand to head

Councillor Sharman – thinking it through.

Kearns Lisa side view Mar 2019

Wants to put the money Sharman has his eye on to a different use.

Six of the seven members were for spending $42,250 to cover the cost of free transit for children under 12- Sharman was the holdout.

City Council uses Staff Directions to give the city administration specific instructions on something they want done that is not covered in the delivery of services that are budgeted for each year.

The tone and content of those Directions give us some sense as to the way a Council member sees his or her role as an elected official.

Angelo Bentivegna is the author of  four of the eleven Staff Directions

Direct the Director of Roads, Parks & Forestry to review options for residential property owners to clear sidewalks in front of their property and identify any associated impacts.

Direct the Director of Building and By-law to investigate the feasibility of providing additional support to ensure by-law compliance (e.g. business and lottery licenses, building permits). Investigate pilot project on specific commercial roads to ensure compliance with all businesses to create a level playing field and to seek compliance opportunities to ensure transparent practices throughout the city. Seek opportunities to utilize business Intelligence (BI) platform for reporting data to internal and external stakeholders.

Direct the Executive Director of Environment, Infrastructure & Community services to review the impact of increasing the gas tax allocation to transit from 75/25 to 70/30.

Direct the City Clerk to review the consolidation of all funding for advisory committees with funding allocated based on an annual business plan / work plan.

Councillor Kearns has a different focus – her four Staff Directions are:

Direct the Chief Financial Officer to review the current value assessment and taxation changes for the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) properties and consult with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and the Region of Halton regarding available tax policy initiatives and report back to Council with the results of the review in Q1 2020.

Vision to Focus Plan – Financial alignment
A) Prioritize funding to implement the V2F as outlined in F-41-19 with particular focus on allocating special dividends received from Burlington Hydro toward the strategic plan.
B) Allocate any unanticipated discretionary funding from upper level governments to the 12 unfunded V2F initiatives, excluding the ZBL review scheduled for 2020 at a cost of $2.5m.

Direct the Director of Community Planning to complete Low-Rise Design Guidelines that address issues of low rise compatibility and results in Low- Rise developments that positively contribute to our urban areas.

Direct the Director of Community Planning to report on the financial impact of a recommendation to reduce fees for charitable housing organizations by Q2-2020

Councillor Stolte feels she and her colleagues need some help in getting THEIR message out and asked for $40,000 for a Part time Communications Staff for Councillors Office; Add ongoing funding for P/T staffing to be shared by Councillors’ Office.   The city already has a senior Communications manager who serves the interests of the city – Stolte thinks the Councillors need their own communications expert.

This Council has convinced itself that the Private Tree Bylaw is going to be revenue neutral; that fines will cover the cost of the five FTE that will be hired to police who cuts down trees.

During the debate on the Private Tree Bylaw at Standing Committee reference was made to how successful the pilot project in Roseland really was – there were very few people upset with having to get a permit.  Stolte did point out that the chain saws were buzzing the days and weeks before the pilot bylaw came into effect.

Is the city going to see the same thing in the next week or so? The tree bylaw will come before council on the 16th.

These BAR’s are ideas, things a Councillor would like to do or a pet project.  Few of them will get past the discussion stage.

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Councillor Sharman: So, what should we do, you might ask? He doesn't like the look of the numbers.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 21st, 2019

Burlington, ON


There is one thing you can be absolutely certain about with the current city council: when Councillor Sharman is upset – you will hear from him and his words will be very precise.

Councillor Sharman asked the Mayor for the floor to make some comments on November the 18th.

He said:

Let me begin by making the following statements:

a) The consulting report is the subject of my discontent in these notes, it is not personal towards any person or staff.

Sharman July 2016

Councillor Sharman: “Let me begin by acknowledging …”

b) My business background coupled with my consulting and professional accounting career lead me to hold reasonable expectations of consultants when it comes to them guiding investment decisions, especially using hard tax dollars, which must be performed with sincere concern for the public trust.

c) I fully support the concept of increasing the modal split in the City of Burlington and the Region of Halton.

Let me begin by acknowledging that my analysis of the business plan, as already communicated to you by Tom Muir, (via the Burlington Gazette) is correctly reported. I will confirm and add to what has already been reported:

1. There was no assessment of the actual Burlington market, its operations, long term history or projected short, medium, and long-term rider demand.

2. There was no analysis or forecast of demographic and related ridership changes in coming years even though we already have a reasonable expectation of what is likely.

3. I will add a new point. Most people are bothered by the huge level of congestion on Burlington streets at peak hours.

This is probably the most significant motivator of increasing modal split. A few considerations:

a. Peak hour traffic will only be reduced by the amount of automobile traffic that can be redirected to GO transit. However, since most of the peak hour traffic relates to people coming into the City from outside (70% according to Transportation staff) or travelling from outside and exiting through the City (30% according to Transportation staff) are most likely not well served by GO transit. Then the probability of those people continuing to use their cars is high. But we have no analysis.

b. Given that the City is still growing, and new residential communities continue to grow to the north, west and south of Hamilton, the number of vehicles on Burlington roads will increase for the foreseeable future. But we have no analysis.

c. Since Burlington Transit essentially serves only the trips of those who travel within the boundaries of the City, increased service cannot be expected to have any material impact on ridership growth in terms of re-directed commuter trips.

4. Halton modal split numbers are theoretical. Our purpose should be to figure out in realistic terms if, how and when they can be accomplished.

5. Our consultant used Canadian Urban Transit Association standards to determine what that meant in terms of how many more buses, drivers, maintenance staff, overhead staff and facilities we will need to add to the budget in each year going forward. CUTA standards are aspirational goals that have been demonstrated to not actually represent any Burlington peer municipality (Jeff Casello, Waterloo University 2012). They are more representative of highly intensified big city circumstances, which we are not… not for a long time anyway.

Intense to the point of making delegations uncomfortable ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman does know how to drill down into the data and look for results.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman does know how to drill down into the data and look for results.

6. When you look at the numbers in the tables provided, they are all premised on a 23% average ridership growth that is required to achieve theoretical modal split goals. For some reason it was assumed that growth will somehow occur in a way that is highly front end loaded with a 36.5% growth in year 1 of the plan, i.e. from 2,000,000 riders in 2019 to 2,730,000 in 2020, with no explanation of how.

7. The critical concern is not so much the report per se, but that the 2020 budget for the City of Burlington includes funding to purchase 4 new buses and hire 8 new drivers. The report proposes that the City should do that in each of the following four years at a cost of millions of dollars each year.

8. The risk is that that the City is about to pour all sorts of real hard dollars into a plan that is completely devoid of any substantive assessment of ridership projections or a realism.

9. Keep in mind that a 1% increase in the City of Burlington budget equals a $1.6m spending increase. Further, that transit revenue, presently, represents less than 25% of the transit operating cost. This is at a time when the City is built out and new sources of property tax increases are drying up. Remember the 2019 budget use of reserves to keep tax rate increases low. This is not going to get any easier.

10. My concern is that costs will go up way more rapidly than ridership… so will taxes in a period of low tax growth, therefore increasing taxes by perhaps 10 to15% in total just for extra transit spending over the next 5 years. What does that mean giving up?

11. We can agree that “more bus users” would be good, but we do not agree to getting there by any means or a hope and a prayer.

So, what should we do, you might ask? Well:

1. Hold off a year to see what happens in 2020 with the new grid network;

2. Hold off a year to see what happens when the new buses and drivers approved in the 2019 budget actually come on line in the next month;

3. Use 2020 to remedy the concerns I have advised you of above;

4. Use 2020 to plan acquisition of electric buses instead of traditional diesel fueled vehicles;

5. Use 2020 to plan a complete transition of Burlington Transit to a 100% electric service;

6. Use 2020 to plan the implementation of on-demand service to undeserved neighbourhoods

I hereby move that we refer this to staff

Related news stories:

Muir on the transit problems.

Council doesn’t like what the consultant had to say – neither did the Director of Transit


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Mayor listens to a report that kept adding dollars to the budget she and her council were going to have to pass in a couple of months: she wanted staff to plan and act at the same time.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 18th, 2019



The 2018-2022 Vision to Focus Financial Plan is complex, expensive and a different approach for Burlington.

The meeting was to receive  the Financial Plan for the implementation of the strategic initiatives as defined in the 2018-2022 Burlington’s Plan: From Vision to Focus (V2F).

The portions of that vision that were to be tackled by council and Staff were:

Promoting Economic Growth
Focused Population Growth
Increased Transportation Flows and Connectivity
Healthy Lifestyles
Environmental and Energy Leadership
Good Governance
Community Building through Arts and Culture via Community Activities

On April 11, 2016 Council approved the city’s 2015-2040 Strategic Plan; transforming the Strategic plan into a central policy document and guiding the community’s key activities, investments and actions.  Realize that the city council we had in 2016 is not the city council we have today.  Nevertheless the Strategic Plan created then is still in place.

What city council has done is approve the creation of a Business Plan that has been named Vision to Focus (V2F) which sets out what Council and the Burlington Leadership team have identified as the key priorities for the balance of this term of office.  This document establishes the strategic actions and initiatives that will focus the city’s efforts over the next four years.

The V2F work plan intends to deliver on five focus areas, with a total of 75 initiatives which are aligned to the 25-year Strategic plan.
The five focus areas are as follows:

• Focus Area 1 – Increasing Economic Prosperity and Community Responsive Growth Management
• Focus Area 2 – Improving Integrated City Mobility
• Focus Area 3 – Supporting Sustainable Infrastructure and a Resilient Environment
• Focus Area 4 – Building more Citizen Engagement, Community Health and Culture
• Focus Area 5 – Delivering Customer Centric Services with a Focus on Efficiency and Technology Transformation

V2F timeline

It’s a solid plan – can the city deliver on council’s expectations? And do enough of the city Councillors fully understand what it is about? They are at phase two and have hit some speed bumps.

The trick is to ensure that the five focus areas and the initiatives within them are aligned with the budget – that translates into – are we sure the money to do all these things is going to be in the bank.

Phase 1 of the Financial Plan for the 2015-2040 Strategic Plan was approved in July 2016 and provided a long-term financial plan to build for the long-term implications that would be realized with a 25-year vision.

None of this is going to be cheap.

A Strategic Plan Reserve Fund was established to hold funds to administer and deliver the initiatives laid out in the plan. Any unspent dollars from the annual strategic plan base budget funding is allocated to the reserve fund.

Retained Savings: Minimum of $500,000 towards the Strategic Plan reserve fund provided the city’s retained savings is $1 million or greater.  Retained Savings is what most of us know as the surplus – money that was budgeted but not spent or revenue projections that turned out to be better than expected.

Base Budget Funding: The following is a list of annual base budget funding that will be used for strategic plan implementation;

Strategic plan implementation $150,000
Policy initiatives reserve fund for planning initiatives $100,000
Culture reserve fund for cultural initiatives $50,000
Community Investment reserve fund for community engagement and empowerment initiatives $80,000

That’s a cumulative total of $380,000 – before any goodies that might come from Burlington Hydro.  Policy is to allocate future special dividends received from Burlington Hydro towards the strategic plan

The following financial plan was approved by Council to meet the funding requirements at that time and plan for future requirements.

This is to cover “much of the core planning and policy work associated with achieving the implementation of the 25-year vision of the city’s Strategic plan. Also, there are certain distinct initiatives that begin to directly deliver some of the plan commitments. Incorporated within the Focus Areas are references to many other important documents, such as the

Official Plan,

Zoning By-Law Review,

Integrated Mobility Plan,

Transit Business Plan, and Mobility Hub Plans, to name a few.

These documents will represent a holistic approach to planning ahead and form the foundation for the future success of many of the initiatives laid out in the V2F work plan and the overall strategic plan.

V2F focus areas

Type is small – if you can read it – is this what you want your city to do for you?

All this planning got Mayor Meed Ward “fussed” as she put it.

The Urban Forestry Management Plan has her asking why trees could not be planted while the planning was being done. We know we are going to be planting trees – so let’s start doing just that, said the Mayor.

With the Staff report read into the record the meeting moved on to asking questions of Satff

Meed Ward H&S profile

The Mayor was not impressed – she describes council as nimble and agile and wants that reflected in the work that gets delivered to them.

Meed Ward had had enough.

She said that what we have here are plans to develop plans.

We will be spending a lot of money without seeing any change happen.

This council has shown itself to be very action oriented

Can we not reduce the time frame or the cost for all this – preferably both.

Can we not go outside and get some of the help we need?

Meed Ward said she understood that Planning and implementation are joined at the hip but we need to see changes on the ground.

So what can we do she asked.

City manager Tim Commisso responded saying he understood and that the report was a snapshot of where we are.

We are starting so that we have something to measure; we want to be able to nail down the numbers.  Meed Ward still wasn’t happy.

She said she wanted to see “expedited” and added that she gets a little jaded about plans and added to that that in her time on council she has seen four or five different master plans.

Trees are something we can measure while we plant.

We want to be a nimble, agile council; can we act and plan at the same time ?

City manager Commisso said “yes we can”.

That was the best the Mayor was going to get out of staff that evening.

The report was moved as received and filed.

But a message had been delivered.

Council was told that “Following the quick wins and initiatives that are transitioned to operations, 51 initiatives remain.

Of these, 19 initiatives are well defined, financial resources are clearly identified and the target for completion is within the four-year time-frame.

The other 32 initiatives are multi-faceted. Multi-faceted initiatives have a foundational and an implementation component. The foundational aspect of the initiatives represents comprehensive planning that needs to occur in order to lay the foundation for future work and decision making. This planning period will occur over a four-year time-frame (2019-2022) and the resulting documents will collectively assist in guiding the City through critical decision points on executing the completion of the initiatives. The implementation component will extend beyond the four-year time frame and the required costing and timing will become available once the planning work associated with it is complete.

The following plans/ reports (not a comprehensive list) are scheduled for completion and/or initiated within the next four years;
• Adopted Official Plan
• Audit and Accountability Report

• Mobility Hub Plans
• Transit Business Plan
• Integrated Mobility Plan
• Climate Change Action Plan
• Green Fleet Strategy
• Fire Master Plan

It was close to mind boggling.  The challenge is to determine if the Staff are available to do the work and if the funds are there to pay for the consulting that is going to be needed.

There will be more on this file in the months ahead.



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