Proposed tax increase set at 3.99% - still well above inflation.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

January 13th, 2019



They now begin to get into the nitty gritty of the job they have been elected to do; deliberations on the budget begin in earnest on Thursday and continue through to March 25th when the Operational budget is scheduled to be approved.  The Capital spending budget is scheduled to be approved on February 25th.

Timeline 2019

This Thursday council will spend time on an Overview report on both the Capital and Operational budgets.

3-99_origThe broad strokes are for a budget increase of 3.99% over what the citizens were taxed in 2018.

In the report to council the Finance department refers to the base budget, the money that has to be spent just to keep the doors open and the wheels turning – this makes up 1.58% of the 3.99% 0f the budget increase.

Regulatory and contractual obligations amount to 1.03% of the 3.99% increase.

The special hospital levy that was put in place when Burlington was told that it had to come up with a whopping $20 million to pay for part of the hospital rebuild/renovation was to be reduced by $1.7 million this year – that amount is being repurposed to infrastructure renewal.

There is a $2 million infrastructure levy that makes up 1.25% of that 3.99% tax increase.

An additional million is being added to public transit that represents .64% of that 3.99% increase.

There are two business cases that will be debated; additional by-law enforcement officers and additions to the para transit service that amount to $214,000 + which make up .21% of that 3.99% budget increase.

Kearns Dewc meeting

Lisa Kearns will be chairing the budget committee – she has her work cut out for her.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns is going to stick handle the budget deliberations.  She has no experience managing a city budget but she has been reading and getting all the help she needs.  Will there be stumbles?  Of course there will be stumbles but Kearns is a quick study and supported by a strong committee clerk.

Some of the city Councillors will struggle to keep up.

This is likely to be a harrowing experience for most of this Council.  Their hearts are in the right place – but their hands are going to slide into your pocket to pay the bills.

The way the Finance department re-purposed the original hospital levy and slid it into the infrastructure account is something that needs a closer look.

The current council didn’t do the dirty on this but the citizens of the city went along with a special tax levy to pay for the hospital rebuild/renovation thinking that when the bills were paid the tax levy would come to an end.

Nope – they are going to keep that tax grab and use it to pay for roads.

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Another one of those win - win - win ideas that Jim Young believes can actually be achieved in the first 100 days of the new city council.

100 daysThe Gazette invited readers to tell the city council that will be sworn in next Monday what they felt were the more important issues that could be acted upon in the first 100 days of four year term.  So far there have been some very good ideas; there are also some ideas that suggest the writer was not all that well informed.

Jim Young, an Aldershot resident involved in the early stages of the Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) initiative has also been a member of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee that has been advocating for a better transit deal for seniors.

By Jim Young
November 30th, 2018

In a previous Op Ed for The Gazette on the “First Hundred Days” I asked for patience and realistic expectations from a new council. Most of the issues that gave rise to the electoral shake up at Burlington City Council are simply too big and complex to expect them to be resolved in the first hundred days.

The “Adopted” Official Plan, Changes to The Downtown Mobility Hub and the missing Transit and Parking Plans all require significant work by staff and review and reconsideration by council. They may also require Regional approval and compliance with Provincial Legislation. So while work on these gets underway in the first hundred days, don’t expect quick results on these portfolios. Given the last fiasco on the OP, we should be demanding that council and staff take appropriate time to seek our input and get the OP right this time.

However one immediately winning issue that can be achieved as a simple 2019 Budget Amendment, is “Free Transit for Seniors during Off Peak Hours” (10.00 to 2.30 Monday to Friday). An idea whose time has surely come.

This was originally proposed by Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee in 2016 for the 2017 budget and defeated by 6 votes to 1. The idea is detailed in BSAC Position Paper “Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for Everybody” and has since been adopted by Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BfAST) who support the idea and for other disadvantaged groups and as part of a more comprehensive Long Term Transit Plan.

Sue Connor with Jim Young

Jim Young with Director of Transit Sue Connor.

In the BfAST 2018 election All Candidate Transit Survey, all six Councillors elect and Mayor elect indicated support for the idea. Some wholeheartedly, some with qualification, suggesting it might be expanded to other disadvantaged groups.

The buses already run empty during those off-peak hours so the only cost is an amount of lost revenue and that is not overwhelming. Based on figures supplied by Burlington Transit in 2016 I calculated it might cost between $48,500 per year and $72,750 depending on the rate of uptake. The previous Director of Transit agreed the cost for a one year trial would be less than $100,000. In an email to me his biggest concern was that any trial would prove so popular, it would be difficult to repeal. It is less than one half of one percent of the city transit budget.

It is possible that provincial funding for transit, a complex formula based on ridership (not revenue) might increase enough to offset any loss of revenue.

Perhaps Transit Director, Sue Connor, who has won the respect of city staff and transit advocates equally, can provide updated figures for the cost, the potential Provincial funding increases and whether there might be an overall gain for Burlington Transit.

As well as filling our mostly empty, off-peak buses the “Improving Transit Paper” details the impact of: Reducing Traffic Congestion, Improving Road Safety, Reducing C02 Emissions, Providing a Dignified Alternative for drivers who lose their Drivers License to age related issues. It also outlines some economic benefits for the city and local businesses and the health benefits to seniors who suffer from social isolation.

Bfast 2018 forum

Bfast events that bring citizens up to date on transit events are always well attended. Might they be heard by the new city council as well?

So come on Mme. Mayor and Brand New Councillors. What are you waiting for? This will help Fill the Buses, Reduce Traffic Congestion, Improve Road Safety, Provide Economic Benefit for Local Retailers and help improve the Health and Well being of our Seniors; all of which I’m sure were on your platforms.

This is a win – win – win for Council, for Burlington Transit and for Seniors. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate that our new council listens to our citizens and delivers on its election platforms and positions.

Related news story:

Seniors Advisory committee request for a pilot project doesn’t get past a Standing Committee

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What will the 2019 tax increase be ? Let's hope the new council is open and honest about what the taxes are going to be.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

November 21st, 2018



On Jan. 29, 2018, Burlington City Council approved the 2018 Operating Budget with a 4.36% city tax increase, resulting in a 2.64% overall tax increase.

Everything about that statement which appears on the city website is true.

However, the only number that the newly elected city council can do anything about is the city’s budget.

Stolte and Kearns - budget book

Newly elected city Councillors Shawna Stolte (ward 4) and Lisa Kearns (ward 2) look over the budget book for 2018. They will get the budget book for 2019 later this year.

The tax bill residents receive includes the city’s tax, the Board of Education tax and the tax levied by the Regional Council.

The city has absolutely no impact on the tax levy from the school board. All the city does is collect the money for the Boards of Education.

At the Regional level Burlington has 7 votes out of a total of 21 votes. We have influence but the Regional tax level which covers waste collection, social services, police, part of the water system and health services to name some of what the Region does are not decisions Burlington Regional Councillors make in isolation.

Something many people don’t realize is that half of a Burlington council member’s income comes from the Region.

That 2.64% that the city makes mention of is the result of averaging the three – Boards of Education, Region and the city tax levy.

It is convenient for the politicians to use the average number – it is lower, makes them look better.

Burlington has had annual increases that were either more than 4% or just under that level in each of the past seven years. It was only in the first year of the council that served from 2018 to 2014 when the tax increase over the previous year was 0%.

That feat was achieved for the most part by then newcomer to city council Paul Sharman who just pushed and pushed and pushed and made it happen.

It will be interesting to see if the five people elected to council for the first time  will be honest, open and transparent about how much of your money they are going to collect

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First stab at the 2019 budget comes in at 4.1% increase.

News 100 redBy Staff

July 10th, 2018



We are at one of those more delicate political points in the life of a city council’s term of office.

4%Staff have their budget forecasts well under way and they are now ready to take their projections on both the spending and revenue side of the city’s finances to the Standing Committees.

Budget increases during the past 7 years have averaged 3.89% – the projection for 2019 is 4.1%

Tax increases 2011- 17

This happens every year – what makes the 2019 budget deliberations more germane – is that this is an election year. Members of council who are seeking re-election are coming across as much more solicitous and accommodating. Five of the seven have filed their nomination papers – two have decided to take their pensions and watch from the sidelines.
We are getting the distinct impression that Councillor Taylor, who will not be running again may become a regular delegator at council meetings in 2019.

Staff have set out a framework for the 2019 budget.

Budget timelines have been adjusted from previous years as a result of the municipal election and in accordance with the Municipal Act. The inauguration of the new Council will take place in December 2018.

Both the Capital and Operating Proposed Budgets will be presented to Committee in January 2019. It is anticipated that budget approval will occur in late February or early March based on the timing of Committee meetings still to be scheduled.

In future years we will be targeting more aggressive timelines which would bring both the Capital and Operating Budgets forward together in advance of year-end (excluding election years).

Below is a brief timeline of the 2019 budget process.

• COW – Capital and Operating Budget Overview January 24, 2019
• Capital Council Information Session January 31, 2019
• Operating Council Information Session TBD – February 2019
• COW – Capital and Operating Budget Review TBD – Feb / Mar 2019
• Council Capital and Operating Budget Approval TBD – Feb / Mar 2019

Budget drivers and policy decisions are what have guided staff. Burlington’s Long Term Financial Plan was determined in November of 2012 when the strategic objectives and policies to ensure financial sustainability and responsible financial management were put in place.


The Strategic Plan grew from four year – one term of council – to a 25 year document.

The Strategic objectives, set out in the Strategic Plan, which is now a 25 year plan –it used to be a four year plan created by each council reflecting the aspirations of a council.

There is no mention of a Strategic Plan review in the creation of the 2019 budget – there should be.

In March 2015, the city received the BMA Financial Health report that provided recommendations that enhanced the existing financial policies. In May, 2017, the Asset Management Financing Plan maintained the recommended increases to the dedicated infrastructure renewal levy.

The City has a 20 year simulation that was presented to Council in January 2018. It provides a forward looking outlook on the city’s budget impacts. Since the 2018 budget approval, minor adjustments have been made to estimates resulting in a forecasted city tax increase of 4.1% for 2019.

Business cases are presented for any service level changes. Snow and leaf removal always get debated.

The budget process is supported by the 2016 Asset Management Financing Plan; Phase 1 Financial Plan for the 2015-2040 Strategic Plan; the 20-Year Simulation of Forecasted Budget Drivers; the BMA Financial Condition Assessment and the city’s Long Term Financial Plan.

Staff have said they will continue to focus on maintaining service delivery. Changes to levels of service will require a business case to outline the details of the change in a transparent manner.

The 2019 operating budget will continue to be presented in a service-based format with two years history for comparison.

In addition, all business cases will include commentary as to how the requested change aligns to one or more of the following items:

City’s Strategic Plan
Burlington Leadership Team (BLT) Work Plan
Departmental Work plan
Service Business Plan

The capital budget continues to remain a 10-year program, broken down by asset categories with projects further categorized as renewal, growth or new / enhanced infrastructure.

Over the last four years the average city tax change is 3.89% (including the hospital)

The tax bill residents get includes the Regional tax levy and the Board of Education tax levy. The city has zero input or impact on the school board budgets and limited impact on the Regional budget.

Despite these facts members of council and city staff make the comment that the overall tax change is 2.33%.
City council is the level that is responsible for tax increases every year for the past seven year that are very close to 4%.

Civic officials and politicians gather around the $100,000 piece of public art. Can you name all of the ùsual suspects`É

Civic officials and politicians gather around the $100,000 piece of public art erected on Upper Middle Road west of Appleby Line

During debate on public art at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday Councillor Sharman said he felt the $50,000 that is allocated for public art was far too little for a city like Burlington and he was prepared to put forward a Staff Direction instructing staff to consider boosting that to $100,000. He didn’t get much blowback on that idea. The only objection was that this wasn’t the time to be talking about budget matter.

With budgets that are consistently above inflation – how does a fiscally prudent city council advocate additional spending?

Brant at the plaza looking south

A planning view of the new Burlington – looking south on Brant from just north of Caroline.

Easy – build like crazy in the downtown core, (and anywhere else you can approve infill developments that change the feel of a neighbourhood, collect all those development charges and send out even more tax bills to those thousands of people who are going to live in the city.

When does the public get a chance to say what they think about the budget? In the past the city has held public meetings that have had varied levels of participation.

In the past the meeting has filled a large room at the Art Gallery; on other occasions there has been less than five people in attendance with two of them former candidates.

One year the attendance was very poor – it was snowing like cracy and everyone blamed the weather – except that the ice rink in the next space at the Mainway Arena was packed with parents watching their children play hockey.

Not hard to approve 4% tax increases year after year with those levels of participation.

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If Doug Ford actually comes through with his 10 cent per litre savings on gas - will that savings come out of the hide of municipal transit?

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

June 25th, 2018



With the provincial election out of the way – we will figure out just what kind of a government we are going to have in the weeks and months ahead.

The political focus now shifts to the municipal sector. The 2018 election is going to be a lot different that the one that took place in 2014.

There is an excellent collection of candidates across the board for the municipal side. There is next to nothing new on the Board if Education side – we will leave that to a future news story.

What Burlington is now seeing is a group of younger people who are smart and want to see things done differently. They care about their city in a much different way than most of the current council.  They are open to new ideas and they are putting new ideas forward.

Several have excellent web sites. Some of the candidates are digging into their own wallets and self -funding their campaigns.

It is a little difficult to keep up with all the campaigns. The Gazette is continually scanning the various candidate web sites and looking for imaginative ideas and solutions to problems the city faces put forward by some of the candidates.

Tanner standing

Roland Tanner, candidate for the ward 2 city council seat.

Roland Tanner, a candidate in ward 2 and one of the people involved in the creation of the Shape Burlington Report in 2010 has some thoughts on how the city is going to fund transit.

The first big plus is that Tanner actually wants to see transit funded – not something one could say about the current council.

In a report he released on his web site ( Tanner said: “Thanks in large part to community groups like Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST), which came into being to protest against transit funding and service cuts made in 2012, Burlington City Council has recently been indicating an increased commitment to investment in Burlington Transit, hand in hand with commitments of $45 million in funding from the provincial and federal governments for Burlington alone. As a result, the Burlington Transit Users’ Forum was characterized by cautious optimism in April.

Tanner want to be sure that the incoming provincial government commits to not reducing the 2 cent gas tax transfer to municipalities?

Tanner points out that those funds “could be threatened by the 10 cent gas tax promised by the incoming provincial government. The 10 cent cut will reduce the overall gas tax received by the province from 14 cents a litre to 4 cents. Of that 4 cents, the province is obliged to pass 2 cents per litre to Ontario municipalities. That means 50% of the remaining gas tax will be going to the cities, not the province. Is it realistic to think the provincial government will be willing to let that continue to happen?

Tanner cropped

Roland Tanner – a member of the Shape Burlington report committee.

There is in in the conclusion Tanner makes that the 10 cent per litre savings Doug Ford said he would give citizens has the potential to come out of the hide of the transit sector.

Tanner asked City Hall to provide exact details of the financial implications of the gas tax transfer being repealed, and they kindly provided them. In the 2017-18 fiscal year gas tax funding for Burlington amounted to: $2,262,568

Tanner concludes that if the gas tax funding from the province is changed the city would have to increase taxes by 1.47 percent, in order to keep transit funding static.

He adds that: “If Burlington is to grow successfully, it is essential that Burlington Transit receives the investment it needs to provide a better service. City Hall should be acting as soon as possible to ask the provincial government to commit to maintaining the municipal gas tax transfer at 2 cents per litre, and oppose any attempt to download provincial government cuts onto municipalities.”

In a May Toronto Star Letter to the Editor Tanner write:

Until the City of Burlington adopts a much more courageous approach to citizen engagement, Burlington will keep finding itself in a cycle of worsening resentment and distrust towards City Hall and council. Such an approach was recommended by the 2010 Shape Burlington Report, which called on City Hall to ‘re-invent itself’ in order to empower citizen-led entities – community councils, advisory committees and panels chosen by civic lottery – that act a ‘”on ramps” to participation’ for people who otherwise don’t get involved city affairs.

A previous Progressive Conservative government downloaded the cost of a a bunch of services to the municipal sector.  Are we about to see this happen again?

Contacting Tanner:

Web site:


Telephone  289 259 4023


Follow on Twitter:

Related links:

The Shape Burlington Report.

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Mayor reminds his colleagues that a bylaw has to be approved before they go home allowing for the collection of taxes.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

April 25th, 2018



The meeting was running late and everyone on council wanted to adjourn and go home.

They had already agreed to extend the meeting for an additional half hour – then the Mayor advised council that they needed to take a break and approve a bylaw that would allow for the collection of taxes.

They did that – here are the results:

Tax levy graphic 2017-18Burlington City Council approved the 2018 Tax Levy Bylaw at its meeting on April 23, 2018. The bylaw allows the city to bill 2018 property taxes and set payment due dates for final tax bills on June 20 and Sept. 20, 2018.

The 2018 Tax Levy Bylaw reflects the budget processes of both the city and Halton Region. The province provides the education tax rates. The overall tax increase is 2.64 per cent or $20.93 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.

While the overall tax increase is reported as 2.64% – the tax increase imposed by the city is slightly less than 4% – well above inflation.  The city collects the Regional taxes and has some impact on the Regional tax levy and absolutely no impact on the school board tax levy.

It is a little disingenuous to quote that 2.64% number – but they do it every year.  Tax discussions apparently don’t come under the transparency rule.

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 $405 million. The city’s levy is $160 million; the city collects $130 million on behalf of Halton Region; and $115 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.

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Pay package for city manager is almost $300,000 - before taxes.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 27th, 2018



What we pay our civil servants and what they deliver in the way of service and leadership is of concern to every taxpayer.

The public has direct input on who serves as members of Council – they get to bring in new people or turf those that have not met the standard the public expected. Public service can at time be brutal.

Council cannot get rid of a Staff member. They can go into a closed session and discuss concerns they have with a staff member and they could direct a city manager to get rid of a staff member because city managers serve at the will of Council

Burlington has asked one city manager to look for another place to work – which usually means buying out he contract they have with the city.

Burlington has gone thought Roman Martiuk , Jeff Fielding and Pat Moyle who was an interim city manager – holding the fort until a permanent city manager is hired.

James Ridge became city manager in 2015

Jeff Fielding was an exceptional city manager but he got an opportunity to serve in Calgary with one of the best Mayor’s in the country and he took it.

Roman Martiuk was brought in to get costs under control.  He and Mayor Goldring didn’t see things the same way.  At the time the Mayor told the Gazette that the decision to par ways was for the most part his alone.  At the time many thought that his then Chief of Staff, Frank McKeown, was the man behind that decision.

Burlington was at one point very fortunate to be able to pull a city manager from the ranks of staff. Tim Dobbie served as city manager while Rob MacIsaac was Mayor – those two were almost a wrestling tag team. They worked together very effectively.

Cam Jackson: Election night 2010

Cam Jackson: Election night 2010

When MacIsaac moved on Cam Jackson, a former MPP, ran for Mayor and Dobbie decided the grass was indeed greener in that other field. He now works as a much in demand consultant to other municipalities.

When a city manager is hired the amount he or she is paid is negotiated.

If you're happy and you know it - clap your hands.

If you’re happy and you know it – clap your hands.

The province of Ontario, when Bob Ray was Premier, decided they would publish a report annually setting out how much every civil servant in the province early more than $100,000 annual gets paid. It was quickly names the Sunshine list and became must reading.

The Gazette has in the past published portions of the report. Downloading the data and formatting it for publication is a time consuming task – it is one that we have decided to do during the Easter Break. There are numerous levels: City, Regional, Education and the Health Sector.

During a meeting with a regular reader earlier this week I was asked when we were going to publish the 2018 numbers and I said during the Easter Break. “You might want to do it sooner the reader suggested, there are some eye popping numbers” he said.

Ridge and Chris Murray - city managers

James Ridge with Hamilton city manager Chris Murray

come close to taking home three hundred big ones?” “Really” I responded. (In the parlance of people in those income range three hundred big one is three hundred one thousand dollar bills – before taxes of course.

It gets better the reader advised: on a value based scale, that is how much it costs each citizen,  we pay our city manager far more than other cities. He put something together for us.

Here is what we were given. We checked to ensure that the gross number for James Ridge was correct.

Eye popping indeed.

City manager pay scales

Does the amount paid to the city manager in the last fiscal year include something other than just salary?



Burlington pays it’s city manager more than the city manager of Hamilton when Hamilton has more than three times the population of Burlington.

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Municipal government is big business and requires people with the capacity to oversee budgets that run in the hundreds of millions. Liking people also helps.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

March 4th, 2018



I frequently correspond with Gazette readers, some of whom are very critical, blunt and direct. They ask that they not be identified publicly. It’s all part of the job. There are others who are less biting and put forward ideas that they think should be in the public realm.

One reader recently said: “ I think part of the issue is that in smaller communities it is not uncommon to find people gravitating to municipal politics who come from small business backgrounds. That is natural and understandable, and the complexities in managing a smaller community are significantly less than in a larger municipal government. At some point the issues become profoundly more complex, and therefore, you need a great skill level and understanding.

council with term dates

The issues are profoundly more complex, and therefore need a great skill level and understanding.

“The other dynamic is that in a smaller community you have people in municipal government for whom the work is a part-time avocation. When you deal with cities the size of Burlington, Mississauga, Brampton, etc., you have a larger constituency, and that demands full-time attention. You can’t serve your constituents well if you are, simultaneously, running your health club, or doing financial planning work on the side.

“Part of the challenge is that municipal government has typically been the poor cousin in Confederation. Whatever status it has flows from the provincial government. However, you have several municipal governments in this country that are as complex or even mores than some provinces; for example PEI’s population is smaller than Toronto, or Mississauga, or Brampton.

rory closeup

Expected to run in ward 3 – Rory Nisan

Gareth Williams

Expected to run in ward 3 – Gareth Williams


Expected ti run in ward 6 – Ken White

“I think in Burlington part of the answer should focus on enticing retirees to run for public office. Many have the business experience, and now the time, to devote to municipal government issues. Another target audience might be persons who have sold their business, have moved here from larger municipalities, are only semi-retired, but have the acumen that would be invaluable in local administration. A third market might actually be provincial public servants who have both the education and the technical experience, and would be a useful check on municipal public servants.

“Whatever the case, we need to get better qualified people into public service at all levels.”

We are suggesting to the writer that he might well be the kind of person that should be at city hall.

Councillor Craven has, on several occasions, made the point that Burlington’s seven member city council is too small – that the job is much bigger than it was a decade ago and that it might be time to look at a larger council and think in terms of junior and senior council members, a situation where every ward would have two council members with one serving at the Regional and city level and the second serving at just the city level.

Circle all spendingFor new members of council learning how to be a city Councillor takes time – to expect these men or women to grasp the Regional workings at the same time is a bit much.

And – Councillors need to be better paid. The approximately $110,000 they are paid annually does not attract the kind of talent needed. What it does do is attract people who are never going to earn $100,00 a year in their lifetimes but think if they can capture the public imagination and win the seat – and once there, hold the seat for a couple of decades.

These people are managing an operational budget of $160 million and a capital budget of $68.6 million, that includes a 10-year program of $688 million.

Burlington is seeing much more interest in who serves on city council. Will there be any acclamations for a city council seat in October?  All seven of the current members of council were re-elected in 2014

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4.36 % tax increase in the city's operational budget.

Budget 2018 ICONBy Pepper Parr

February 1st, 2018



Council added more money for transit and sports fields maintenance to the 2018 operating budget after committee deliberations January 18th and approved an operating budget at city council on January 29th that sets the operating budget with a 4.36% increase in the tax to be collected over last year.

Circle all spendingBurlington tax increases have been hovering at the 3 to 4% annual tax increases for much of the two terms the current council has been in office.

This year the city manager had to deal with three cost increases that they should have seen coming.

The arbitration that gave the fire fighters significant increases.

$1.2 million, or an additional tax increase of 0.78 per cent for impacts from the 2014 arbitrated Fire Department settlement

The provincial decision to set a minimum wage increase.

$1 million, or an additional tax increase of 0.65 per cent for legislative changes to the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Acts (Bill 148)

The need to improve transit service.

$1.55 million, or an additional tax increase of 1.01 per cent for changes made in transit to provide operational sustainability and increased reliability of service

The pressure from these three requirements meant there weren’t going to be any business cases put forward for new services. The departments were told to look for way to cut spending – a 5% tax increase was something that had to be avoided.

The 2018 operating budget focuses on:

Infrastructure - Mainteance• Investing in infrastructure and maintenance – in accordance with the city’s Asset Management Plan, the dedicated infrastructure levy has been increased by 1.25 per cent or $1.9 million. Of the $160.1 million collected through the tax levy, $34.72 million will fund the capital program and renewing Burlington’s aging infrastructure.

• Transit and transportation – strategic investments to improve the city’s transit service, including $1.55 million for changes in transit to provide operational sustainability and to improve reliability of the service.

Community onvestments• Community investment and growth – to provide an additional investment of $320,000 to enhance the maintenance of sports fields.

Sustaiability• Financial sustainability – Burlington’s operating budget is committed to ensuring the city has competitive property taxes. Since 2011, overall tax increases in Burlington have averaged 1.9 per cent. In a comparison of property taxes in municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Burlington’s property taxes are the third-lowest for a residential single-family detached home.

There is a little creative license blended into that 1.9 % increase. It reflects the Regional and Education taxes – what matters to the people at city hall is how they determine what the city tax rate is going to be.

The increased spending on transit became necessary when a new employee with an MBA began to look at and analyze the transit spending – he discovered a number of serious problems that the city manager realized he had to act on. City hall has not been known for its commitment to transit. The problems that were brought to the surface had to be dealt with immediately.

Not to mention that the council members talk about the public having to learn to use public transit and bicycles but not putting real dollars into transit. That situation has changed.

When Burlington learned that it was going to have to come up with $60 million for the re-development of the hospital city council put a special levy in place which was shown on the tax bill. When that was put in place the indication was that this was just a one-time thing.

Good luck on that one. When the hospital levy has raised all that was needed to cover the $60 million – the levy will stay in place and be directed to bringing the infrastructure up to standard.

Councillor Sharman said at a budget meeting that Burlington went for seven years without a tax increase (that was well before he was elected to office – in his first year as a Councillor he pushed his colleagues into a 0% increase) and that we were now paying for that decision. The infrastructure was not given the resources it needed and it was time to catch up.

City of Burlington property taxes for a home assessed at $500,000 are $1,783.45. When combined with the proposed Halton Region increase and no change for education, overall property taxes for a home assessed at $500,000 are $4,074.45.


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Burlington has some budget lessons to learn from a report produced by one of the most respected think tanks in the country.

Budget 2018 ICONBy Staff

January 8th, 2018



Canada’s major cities tend to understate revenue and spending, wait too long to release budgets, and confuse taxpayers with obscure figures in their financial reports, finds a new study from the C.D. Howe Institute.

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada’s most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.


The Infograph does let you know where your dollars are going – is that enough? For 2017, each $100,000 of an urban residential assessment amounts to approximately $365 in property taxes for city services.

In the 2017 edition of the Institute’s annual municipal fiscal accountability report card, titled “Fuzzy Finances: Grading the Financial Reports of Canada’s Municipalities,” the authors  “found a dramatic divergence in the quality of financial reporting among municipalities”. “Sadly, this year’s report card highlights some marked declines in municipal fiscal accountability.”

While Burlington wasn’t one of the municipalities that was reported on the questions the authors of the report raised are still very relevant; especially for a city that has raised the tax rate by close to, sometimes above 4% each year for at least the past three years.

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.

The staff within the Finance department know their stuff; they have their fingers on every piece of information and when they are asked a question they have a direct answer – no “flim flam” from that department.

Where they err is on making the information available to the public and reconciling what they promise and what they deliver. Basically – the accountants aren’t as accountable as they need to be. The department has the capacity to better inform the public.

They aren’t told to do so by the City Manager who calls all the shots and they aren’t directed to do so by the elected city council.

James Ridge

City manager James Ridge.

There was a memorable occasion during the discussion of last year’s budget when James Ridge, the city manager, said that staffing needs just “bubble up” during Leadership Team budget discussions. At the time Ridge was asking for a $500,000 addition to the base budget. Councillor Meed Ward tried to get that pared back to $300,000 for the first year – she didn’t get the support she needed.

Jack Dennison, probably the best financial mind on council wasn’t aware that the $500,000 was being put into the base budget.

Much of that spending Ridge was asking for was to be on the Grow Bold initiative – and we know what we got for our money on that one.

Burlington has always had a small group of citizens who get out to public meetings to review budgets, policy proposals and share ideas. In that regard we are fortunate.

Burlington has always had a small group of citizens who get out to public meetings to review budgets, policy proposals and share ideas. In that regard we are fortunate. Unfortunately – the city no longer holds this kind of meeting – they did do a telephone call in program instead.

The C D Howe Institute “urges municipalities to adopt accrual accounting in budgets – municipal governments should present their annual budgets on the same accounting basis as their year-end financial statements.

Present headline figures early and prominently in budgets and financial reports –municipalities need to display the key numbers in a more accessible manner. Burlington puts up some detailed Infographics that go part of the way.

Show gross, consolidated, municipality-wide spending – municipal budgets should show gross spending and revenue so that users of financial statements have a comprehensive overview of a government’s fiscal footprint.

Explain deviations from budget plans – municipalities should prominently display tables reconciling year-end results with budget promises.

Publish budgets and financial reports in a timely manner – municipalities should approve expenditures before the government spending happens.

Burlington misses this mark by a wide margin.

Municipalities are not allowed to operate at a loss.  When Burlington’s Finance department reports on how they managed the collection and spending of taxes they have gotten into the habit of using the phrase a “positive or a negative variance”  – they don’t like saying there was a surplus.

There is always a surplus – sometime a huge amount – it was once as high as $9 million.  That surplus gets distributed into the numerous reserve funds the city has to draw on – that’s what prevent any kind of a loss in any one year.  When the reserve funds are close to being depleted the city will include a top up amount in the next budget.

The favourite reserve fund is the Tax Stabilization account – it is a sort of the piggy bank that council can always go to when funds for something unexpected is needed.

“Clearer, more consistent figures and better accountability for hitting or missing budget targets would bring the financial management of municipalities better into line with their fiscal impact and their importance in Canadians’ lives,” the authors conclude.

In a CBC radio interview earlier this morning the authors of the report touched on citizen participation in the creation of the budget. A couple of public budget session ago Vanessa Warren, an advocate for more significant public involvement in the creation of the budget, asked why the meeting was being shown a budget but not being asked to be involved in the creation of that budget.

Burlington does a survey asking what people think of the budget – and always gets high marks. Councillor Dennison has not been known to question the validity of that survey.

City council passed a bylaw allowing the Finance department to send out interim tax bills for a budget that has yet to be approved.

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Finance department tells council a tax hike of 4.19% will be needed to keep the doors open in 2018

Budget 2018 ICONBy Staff

January 2, 2018



The announcement from city hall was pretty straight forward – the review of city’s proposed 2018 operating budget will take place January 18.

Then the kicker – Proposed city tax increase of 4.19%

How much longer can Burlington smack the tax payers with property tax increases of more than 4%.
It just isn’t sustainable.

The 2018 operating budget delivers a base budget to maintain city service levels.

Operating budget - what you getOther impacts to the 2018 operating budget include:

• $1.9 million or an additional tax increase of 1.25 per cent dedicated to the renewal of city infrastructure as outlined in the Asset Management Plan.

• $1 million or an additional tax increase of 0.65 per cent for legislative changes to the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Acts (Bill 148) including increases to minimum wage.

• $1.3 million or an additional tax increase of 0.84 per cent for changes in transit to provide operational sustainability.

• $1.2 million or an additional tax increase of 0.78 per cent for impacts from the 2014 arbitrated Fire settlement.

• $320,000 or an additional tax increase of 0.21 per cent to enhance maintenance standards on city sports fields.

Capital budget 2018The total city tax increase in the proposed 2018 operating budget is 4.19 per cent. When combined with Halton Region’s proposed tax increase and no change for education, the overall tax increase is projected at 2.49 per cent or $21.03 per $100,000 of Current Value Assessment.

There is an ongoing fallacy that gets trotted out each year by Joan Ford, Director of Finance: “Despite a number of significant budget pressures like the increase to Ontario’s minimum wage effective Jan. 1, 2018, and funding needed to address operational challenges in transit, Burlington’s proposed operating budget continues to ensure our assets are renewed and maintained in a fiscally responsible manner. Since 2011, overall tax increases in Burlington have averaged 1.9 per cent. In a comparison of property taxes in municipalities in the Great Toronto Hamilton Area, Burlington’s property taxes are the third lowest for a residential single-family detached home.”

Every word of that is true – however neither Burlington’s finance department nor its city council can do a blessed thing about the demands the school board or the Region make on the pocket books of the tax payers: Burlington is asking for an increase of 4.19% – they have been asking for more than, or very, very close to 4% for the past four years.

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 was tough enough in 2010 to keep the tax increase to 0.

There was a time, back in 2010, when the tax increase was zero! Councillor Sharman was the driving force behind that effort. Council did it once – they should be able to do it again. It’s called belt tightening.

Members of the public who would like to speak at the Committee of the Whole budget meeting as a delegation can register by calling 905-335-7600, ext. 7481 or visiting The deadline to register as a delegation for the Jan. 18 meeting is noon on Jan. 17, 2018.

Council approval of the proposed 2018 operating budget is scheduled for Monday, January 22, at 6:30 p.m.

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Council to debate the 2018 Operating budget - $30,000 will be used to decide what to do with the Lowville school house.

Budget 2018 ICONBy Pepper Parr

December 27th, 2017



The city Finance department takes care of collecting the money.

They create a budget that gets put through dozens of hoops with no public input until the document is sent along to a Council Standing Committee. The Finance department tells the Councillors what it will take in the way of a tax rate to pay for the contents of the budget.

There is then a full day session when city council meeting as a Standing Committee goes through the budget with as close to a fine tooth comb as Burlington is capable of – based on last year’s budget, when the city manager asked for $500,000 (that’s half a million) added to the base budget by explaining that things just “trickle up” and have to be covered that fine tooth comb doesn’t do its job.

Big on providing services. Political enough to be on the winning side?

Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward in the first office she had when elected in 2010.

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward tried to cut that back to $300,000 the first year and then take a closer look in the second year. She got nowhere with that. Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison who usually knows where every nickel goes was at one point unaware that the $500,000 was going into the base budget – which means he gets that amount every year.

This kind of spending helps understand why Burlington has had tax increases in the 4% range for the past four years.

Most Councillors have a project in their ward they want to promote – it’s just good politics.
For ward 3 Councillor John Taylor – it is quite often something for Lowville.

This year he has his hand out for $30,000 to do a study on what can be done with the Lowville School House, a building that is structurally sound but doesn’t have a heat source or running water.

LOWVILLE SCHOOL HOUSEFor the past couple of years the city has had a working arrangement with Thinkspot, a Lowville based mini think tank that has developed a reputation for being the place to go for well-honed leadership in getting at just what the root of a problem is and then putting together a process for resolving the problem.

The locale is about as good as it gets – 15 minute drive from the city to a rural setting that is pleasant, relaxing and has a decent kitchen for putting together snacks. ThinkSpot often used the school house for larger groups and often for ThinkSpot sponsored community events.

The city decided some time ago that there was a better way to use the space and advised ThinkSpot that the working relationship that was in place was no more.

Lowville has a really robust group of people who keep a close eye on what city council does – it was Lowville residents who tipped off the Gazette about the land fill that was being dumped at the Air Park. They don’t miss much.

The bureaucrats want to be careful with what they take to the community – they have pretty high expectations.

Waterfront hotel Taylor

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor doing what he does best – listening to people

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor has this soft spot for Lowville. His ward includes much of rural Burlington. When he retires he just might find himself wanting to live in that community.

Operating budget - what you get

Foe a home assessed at $500,00 – find one of those in Burlington – the taxes are really close to $2,000. If that amount $18.66 will pay for city council; $70.56 will be used on roads and transportation. These numbers are based on the proposed operating budget.

The really hard look at the Operating budget will take place on January 18, starting at 9:30 a.m. – Committee of the Whole – Operating Budget review

Anyone who wants to delegate must register by noon on January 17.

The following Monday, January 22nd, city council will vote on the recommendation that comes out of the Standing Committee. That’s four days later – not much time for people to digest what came out of the Standing Committee and form argument for a change to the budget.

The Capital budget has already been set.

Capital budget 2018

The Capital budget – it has already been approved.

This is an example of the city claim that it really engages with its citizens. It is a part of the why there is now a citizen’s organization that believes things have to be different.

Every member of the current council was re-elected in 2014 and there doesn’t appear to be rush of bright stars on the horizon who want to challenge the incumbents. There are a couple.

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$68.6 million to be spent on Capital projects - for a city that keeps talking about improving transit - a lot is being spent on roads.

Budget 2018 ICONBy Staff

December 12, 2017



During the final city council meeting of 2017 Monday evening, the significant seven approved a Capital Budget spend of $68.6 million without as much as a word from any Councillor and no one delegating.

The ten year capital spending forecast is for $688 million.

The tax increase for 2018 is expected to be in the 4% range.

Seventy nine per cent of the 10-year capital budget will be invested in renewing Burlington’s aging infrastructure in accordance with the city’s Asset Management Plan.

A breakdown of spending for the 2018 capital budget of $68.6 million includes:

• $32 million, the largest component, for roadways
• $11.5 million for facilities and buildings
• $8.1 million for parks and open spaces
• $7.1 million in storm water management
• $6.1 million towards fleet vehicles and equipment
• $1.8 million for information technology
• $1.4 million for local boards (Burlington Public Library, Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Art Gallery of Burlington, Burlington Museums)
• $630,000 in parking.

Capital budget 2018

This is where the Capital spending is going to go – $68.6 million in 2018

City Council meetings are usually quite short – this one lasted 40 minutes. There have been council meetings as short as 20 minutes. The Mayor likes to move things briskly.

The electronic voting system the city used didn’t function – again. The Halton District School Board has a system that works exceptionally well.

During the discussion before the voting on different items there was mention of cycle tracks on New Street that were going to come in at $5 million.

The item is in the 2019 capital budget just as a place holder (it had to be put in somewhere was the comment heard off camera) – no date on when such a spend would take place. The decision to get rid of the road diet New Street was put on does not seem to have had any impact on how New Street is going to work going forward.

The buzz word was “active transportation for city roads.”

Council received and filed an update on the work being done on the Waterfront Hotel development plans. Councillor Meed Ward commented that this was a work in process and that there was still a lot to be done.

Councillor Craven added that he was pleased to see the high level of community input and added that is it “fair and appropriate to point out that this the property is privately owned.”

Traditionally this council has been much more robust in the way they wished their constituents all the very best for the holiday season and spoke glowingly on how much they had gotten done during the year and how well they had done their jobs – none of that grandstanding Monday night.

This is a somewhat subdued city council. As usual the tough questions came from Councillor Meed Ward.

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Finance department gives Council an Operating budget with a 4.19% increase over last year.

Budget 2018 ICONBy Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2017



Budget time.

City staff presented an Operating budget with a 4.19 % increase over last year – this will be the xx year that tax payers have seen increases in the 4% range.

Future tax

The disturbing part of this budget is the prediction going forward for increases that are wll above inflation at a time when the economy is very healthy. The line that is solid yellow is the one that tax ayers need to focus on

The proposed net tax levy for the 2018 fiscal year for the Operating budget will amount to $159,855,656. Staff propose that Council approve this amount on January 22, 2018.

Staff did a line-by-line review of the base budget and found $600,000 in savings.

James Ridge

City manager James Ridge.

The strategic review of the Operating Budget is done by a Leadership Team comprised of the City Manager, Director of Finance, Director of Human Resources. The Director of Planning and Building and the City Clerk took part as rotating member.

The following were events that impacted the Operating budget:

The estimated impact from legislative changes to the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Acts (Bill 148) of $1 million results in an additional tax increase

The annualized impact of changes made within the Transit Service to provide operational sustainability of $1.3 million results in an additional tax increase

Impacts from the 2014 arbitrated Fire settlement of $1.2 million results in an additional tax increase

The increase for the dedicated infrastructure levy of $1.9 million results in an additional tax increase

A business case to increase maintenance standards on city sports fields for $320K

Where the money gets spent

Where the money gets spent

These events plus the base budget already in place result in a total tax increase to 4.19%.

The following table provides a breakdown of the city’s tax increase.

Tax impacts from budget croppedThe cost increases put upward pressure on the budget; more money going out. The lower than anticipated assessment growth meant less money coming in. The difference between those two numbers is found in the pockets of the tax payers.

Spicer + Ridge

Former Director of Transit Mike Spicer sitting with city manager James Ridge – the facial expressions tell the story. Spicer resigned several months later.

Council learned on September 7, of the “challenges facing the department’s operations”. Those challenges are going to add s approximately $1.3 M to the proposed 2018 budget.

Municipalities are service organizations that rely heavily on human resources to deliver the range and quality of services that residents have come to expect. Human resource costs (including benefits, training, etc.) as a percentage of the City’s gross budget has changed from 50.5% in 2004 to 46.2% proposed for 2018.

Local Boards include the Burlington Public Library, Burlington Museums, Art Gallery of Burlington, Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC), Tourism Burlington and the Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC). For 2018 a base budget increase of 2.0% was provided for local boards, equating to $295,910.

The city continues to make good progress on its infrastructure renewal needs as Council has provided Predictable Infrastructure Investment, in the form of a dedicated incremental infrastructure levy. The proposed budget includes a 1.25% ($1.9 million) levy as recommended in the city’s Asset Management Financing Plan.

A recent review of the Vehicle Depreciation Reserve Fund (VDRF) recommended that the annual contributions to the reserve fund be increased from 3% to 4% per annum to ensure long-term financial sustainability. This increased contribution has an incremental $32,000 ongoing impact to the operating budget.

The city revenues in 2018 will, in part come from the following increases:

• increase in registration fee and rental revenues of $181,000 to reflect increased volume of participants as well as increases to fees

• increase in Building Permit fees of $186,000 to reflect an increase in the costs to administer enforcement of the Building Code (Bill 124)

• increase in Development Application and Approval Processing (DAAP) fees of
$140,000 to reflect an increase in volume and a 2% increase in fees

• increase in parking fines of $215,000 and daily parking revenues of $150,000 to better align with historical revenue trends

• increase in Transit advertising revenues of $170,000 as a result of a new advertising contract.

How budget gets done

The process for putting a city budget together.

A tax bill doesn’t always translate into cash in the city coffers. The city budgets annually for tax write-offs based on assessment reductions or property class changes agreed to by MPAC and/or the Assessment Review Board (ARB).

Annual write-offs have traditionally been approximately $1 million. In 2017 write-offs are estimated to total $2 million due to continued processing of longstanding appeals being resolved by the ARB. These write-offs have depleted the allowance account which will require a provision to be made at year-end as part of the retained savings. The budget for write-offs has been increased by $50,000 to $1.175 million.

These growth costs and other inflationary increases have been offset by assessment growth which allows a municipality to finance increased costs without increasing taxes.

Over the past five years Burlington’s weighted assessment growth was:

2013 0.87%
2014 0.58%
2015 0.97%
2016 1.16%
2017 0.15%

Staff continue to believe a portion of this is one-time in nature.

Paradigm from the west Nov 2017

The first of the five tower Paradigm on Fairview will begin to be occupied in 2018 – adding to the tax roles.

There are three major projects under construction that will be at least partially completed in 2018 – with people moving in – tax get levied and assessment growth improves.

The 2017 Approved Budget included $200,000 to implement the first phase of the Enhanced Sportsfield Maintenance Strategy. Included with the 2018 budget is a business case to provide the remaining funding requirements of $320,320 and 3.2 FTE to fully implement this strategy. This business case aligns with the city’s Strategic Direction of a Healthy and Greener City. It will result in improved turf resilience and playability as well as demonstrates environmental leadership and stewardship of our natural assets.


Services the city provides.

The proposed city increase of 4.19%, for urban residential taxpayers translates into a tax increase of $21.03 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

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City is renaming two of its departments to more accurately reflect the services provided. Means everyone gets new business cards.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

November 9th, 2017



The City of Burlington is renaming two of its departments to more accurately reflect the services that are provided to the residents.

As of Jan. 1, 2018 Roads and Parks Maintenance will become the Roads, Parks and Forestry Department; and Planning and Building will become the Department of City Building – Planning, Building and Culture.

The services provided by each of the departments will not change.

The Roads, Parks and Forestry Department provides:

Road and sidewalk maintenance including inspections, repairs and winter control
• Loose leaf collection and street sweeping
• Forestry operations including inspections, pruning, removals, planting and education
• Park maintenance including playgrounds, park furnishings and fencing, waste removal, and park buildings
• Storm sewers and creek maintenance
• Cemetery operations

The Department of City Building – Planning, Building and Culture provides:

Building, plumbing, heating, swimming pool, septic system, and sign permits
• Bylaw customer service
• Building inspections
• Building permit customer service
• Business and lottery licensing
• Official Plan/planning policy
• Development application review
• Development customer service
• Zoning customer service
• Committee of Adjustment
• Urban design
• Mobility hubs planning
• Public art
• Culture planning and implementation

Tanner and Taylor at June 21-17 workshop

Mary Lou Tanner, City Planner making a point with Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor

Mary Lou Tanner, director of Department of City Building – Planning, Building and Culture, who now gets a new business card said: “Changing the name from Planning and Building to the Department of City Building – Planning, Building and Culture will help eliminate some confusion for residents who have questions, streamlining customer service.”

Mary Battaglia, director of Roads, Parks and Forestry Department tell us that: “The name change more accurately reflects what we do. The Department of Roads, Parks and Forestry provides three important services for residents that are all reflected in the new name. It’s a simple change and it just makes sense.”

This just means printing up a whole bunch of new business cards.

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Capital budget proposal for 2018 is $68.6 million.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

November 2, 2017



A review of the 2018 proposed budgets will begin on Nov. 9 at 11 a.m.

A copy of the proposed 2018 capital budget will be available online at by Nov. 6, 2017.

Meetings for the 2018 capital and operating budgets will take place on the following dates:

Budget dates graphic 2017

Members of the public who would like to speak at the Committee of the Whole – Budget meetings as a delegation can register by calling 905-335-7600, ext. 7481 or visiting

The deadline to register as a delegation for the Dec. 1 Committee of the Whole capital budget meeting is Nov. 30, 2017 at noon. The deadline to register as a delegation for the Jan. 18 Committee of the Whole operating budget meeting is Jan. 17, 2018 at noon.

Joan Ford, Director of Finance said that “Seventy eight per cent of the 2018 capital budget is focused on renewing our aging infrastructure in accordance with the Asset Management Plan. The budget also makes key investments to deliver on initiatives in the Strategic Plan.”

Budget book coversThe 2018 Capital Budget is focused on delivering initiatives in the city’s Strategic Plan and meeting the city’s commitment to infrastructure renewal projects identified by Burlington’s Asset Management Plan. Priorities for 2018 include road and storm water infrastructure improvements.

The 2018 proposed capital budget is approximately $68.6 million, with a 10-year program of $688 million.

No mention is made in the media release as to what the city is going to do about the financial mess at Burlington Transit.  We will all feel the bite on that one.

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Mayor announces his intention to run for re-election.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 18th, 2017



It wasn’t a great surprise – if he wasn’t employed as the Mayor what would he do?

Inside Halton published a report that had Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring announcing earlier today that he would be seeking a third term in the 2018 municipal election.

Inside Halton went on to say that the Mayors used “…the Niagara Escarpment as a backdrop where the Mayor was joined by his wife Cheryl and children Stephanie and Lisa.

When asked why he was making his intentions known almost a year away from next year’s municipal election, Goldring replied the main reason was because so many people were asking him if he was planning to run again.

Goldring defends turf 2

Mayor answering questions during a ward 4 debate.

“And I thought this was the best way to let the community know what my intention is and that is to register in early May as a candidate,” he said.

Registration for candidates in the mayoral, Councillor or school board trustee races officially opens May 1, 2018.

Goldring said he specifically chose to make his announcement in north Burlington because the 100 per cent commitment by previous and current councils to maintain 50 per cent of the city (in the north) as rural.

“As we grow as a city, it is critical we maintain and enhance the 50 per cent of Burlington that’s in the greenbelt,” he noted.

The community would never have come into being were it not for the building of the 407 highway. That decision opene4d up land that was part of rural Burlington. Alton Village is bounded by the 407, Walkers Line on the west and Appleby Line on the east with Dundas making up the southern boundary.

The rural-urban boundary – defined by Hwy 407and Dundas is not going to ever be changed by cit council.

Burlington’s city council couldn’t change the regulation that has the land north of the Hwy 507 – Dundas Boundary and permit major residential development. The province and the Region would slap the city something silly if they even talked about such an idea.

The Mayor has created a straw dog.

If re-elected, Goldring said he would continue to bring what he has in the past to the office of the mayor.
“I think that’s the attitude of one of service, an attitude of collaboration, connecting with the community on a regular basis, as well as help provide direction to the city going forward, which I have done for the last seven years,” he explained, noting he didn’t see being mayor as a job, but rather a vocation.

“I’m fortunate to be the mayor, I take it very seriously. I’m honoured and privileged each and every day to do the role.”

They all say that – and Rick Goldring does take his job seriously.

During the release of the 2017 Vital Signs report by the Burlington Foundation, chair Ron Foxcroft, who likes to loosen up an audience with a little humour, told the story of Rick Goldring’s NHL career (there was of course no such things but when Ron Foxcroft is on a roll – there is no stopping him) he said there was just one thing missing – talent.


Goldring called the role of mayor a challenging one and currently facing a challenging time as the city is embarking on a path to adopt new municipal plans.

“I’m invigorated and inspired at the opportunity to continue to lead the city going forward,” he added.

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work with council, staff and the community in continuing to build and have a great city that is in fact the envy of the country and continues to be the best medium-sized city to live in Canada.”

That is part of the story – but only part. The reality is that Mike Wallace is out there beating the bushes and holding small events at various locations in the city where he meets with invited guests to re-introduce himself and measure what he might have in the way of support.

Mike Wallace wants to be Mayor so bad he can taste it.

Quite why Rick Goldring wants a third term is something one can only speculate about. He has not managed to do anything of any significance in his first two terms.

Still no Code of Conduct for city council members; Goldring sloughed that off to the city manager who is expected to come back with something – sometime.

Still no private tree bylaw – and for a committed environmentalist that is close to unconscionable.

This graphic sets out the issue. The two pieces of land at each end are owned by the city and will be turned into Windows on the LAke. The piece in the centre is owned by the city and the province. The three property owners want to purchase that centre piece and make it private property. Other people want to see a pathway through the property running from Lakeshore, down Market Street along the waterfront and up St. Paul back to Lakeshore. City council voted t sell the land in the center.

This graphic sets out the issue. The two pieces of land at each end are owned by the city and will be turned into Windows on the Lake. The piece in the centre is owned by the city and the province. The three property owners want to purchase that centre piece and make it private property. Other people want to see a pathway through the property running from Lakeshore, down Market Street along the waterfront and up St. Paul back to Lakeshore. City council voted t sell the land in the center.

The land at the edge of the lake between Market Street and St, Paul is gone forever – thank your Mayor for that one. The city owned the land – but we sold it.

At some point there will be a decision on whether or not New Street should have dedicated bike lanes.

The decision to go ahead with the Joseph Brant Museum transformation is going to end up being as serious a mistake as The Pier. Goldring came in as Mayor the Mayor who had to deal with The Pier mess – he may well leave office having left the city with a project that is only going to such money out of reserve funds for years to come.

Later this evening – Thursday October 18, the Mayor is going to hold a Telephone Town Hall during which he will listen to what people would like to see in the budget. He is doing this because he said a survey told city hall that people didn’t want to go out to attend budget meetings.

The pictures below tell a different story.

Burlingtonians will show up for public meetings and take an active part in any discussion - but they have to be given background briefings and decent oportunity to study and prepare.

Burlingtonians will show up for public meetings and take an active part in any discussion This is a budge review meeting with the Director of Finance leading the discussion.


Citizens doing a solid review of a city budget. For the Mayor to suggest that people don;t want t attend is spurious at best.

But the race is on. We now need to hear what Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward plans to do. The last we heard – she is in – she has wanted to be Mayor since the day she ran for the ward 2 seat in 2010.

The 2014 election was a sleeper – that will not be the story for the next 12 months.

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Mayor is looking for a way to communicate with the people who pay the taxes - he's hoping a Telephone Town Hall will draw an audience.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

October 10th, 2017


The Mayor tried this once before – it didn’t work out all that well. But he is game to try it again.

Goldring and Carr Cogeco Cable

Mayor with Mark Carr preparing for a live call in Cogeco broadcast from city.

Sometime during his first term of office the Mayor teamed up with Mark Carr and Cogeco and set up a call in show that was done live from the city Council Chamber.  There were very very few calls.

This time the Mayor is going to talk to his constituents about the budget priorities in an online Town Hall.

In the past the city has held public meetings to talk about the budget – the Mayor is now saying that “We’re making changes to our budget engagement strategy based on last year’s survey results which told us residents didn’t want to come to a public information centre and would prefer a more convenient way of being informed and asking questions.”

The photographs taken of previous public budget meetings show a room filled with people.  There was one exception – in 2015 – a snow storm kept people away.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. What they have yet to have explained to them is the desperate situation the city will be in ten years from now if something isn't done in the next few years to figure out how we are going to pay for the maintenance of the roads we have.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. .

Budget session Public (1) March 5-2011

Lot of people showed up for the 2011 budget review meeting.

Budget public meeting - empty hall

The 2015 budget review meeting didn’t draw very many people – there was a snow storm – however the arena right next door was packed.

The Telephone Town Hall on the 2018 Proposed Budget will take place on Wednesday, October 18th, between 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. for residents, businesses and community partners.

Participants will learn about and discuss the proposed 2018 budget priorities with Mayor Rick Goldring and senior city staff.

Residents, businesses and community partners will be randomly selected to participate by telephone invitation from the Mayor.  Anyone who does not receive a telephone invitation can call 1-800-537-6616 at 7:30 p.m. on October 18th and listen in to the conversation.

The purpose of the Telephone Town Hall is to discuss the proposed 2018 budget priorities with the Mayor and senior city staff.

In this live, call-in session, residents, organizations and business owners can ask questions about the upcoming budget. There will be an emphasis on:

• Resident satisfaction with value for service
• Increased funding for transit
• Support for city infrastructure renewal funding

There is no mention of any documentation or overview of what the 2018 budget is going to contain which makes it a little difficult for people to comment. It does give those who get invited to take part to rant publicly – which makes one wonder just who is going to get invited. The selection of participants is said to be random – random from what – a list of voters or those who donated to the Mayor’s election campaign or those on his Christmas card list?

The discussion will start shortly after 7:30 pm – those who want to listen in can call in a minute or two early; anyone who is late will be able to join anytime. The system can handle up to 20,000 participants.

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.

Joan Ford, Director of Finance adds that: “The budgets are being drafted right now. The feedback we receive from the Town Hall will be put into a report and presented to City Council for their consideration. All questions received during the Town Hall, regardless of whether they were discussed live will be posted online with answers a few days after the event.”

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City budget for 2018 - what might we be looking at?

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

September 20, 2017



While the city beavers away at getting all the public participation for the Mobility Hubs done and another group in the Planning department works through the steps that will be involved in getting what is going to be built on the Waterfront Hotel site clarified and the people over at Transit get used to the idea that theirs is going to be a much different world if what the City Manager had to say at a recent Council meeting was real, there is another department finalizing some of its work and will have information for all of us real soon – the BUDGET.

Tax Capital budget infogr 2017

The budget for Capital spending in 2017

The Finance department works to a well-honed time line to get all the numbers pulled up from the departments and worked into a number that gets cleared at the Executive level within city hall.

By this time the first cut of the budget is pretty clear in the minds of the people that do the number crunching.

The million or so that is going to have to be put into Transit is something they are probably still digesting.

Budget 2015 Services at the centre of it all

The processes that a budget has to go through involves some complex procedures – the theory is that any new spending has to be supported by a business case.

The 2018 budget timelines call for a December approval of the Capital Budget and a January approval of the Operating Budget.

The people over at Finance tell us that in future years “we will be targeting more aggressive timelines which would bring both the Capital and Operating Budgets forward together in advance of year-end (excluding election years).

The timeline of the budget process for 2018 looks like this:

A Committee of the Whole meeting: Capital Budget Overview: November 9, 2017
Capital Council Information Session: November 16, 2017
A Committee of the Whole Capital Budget Review: December 1, 2017
A Committee of the Whole Operating Budget Overview: December 1, 2017
Council Capital Budget Approval: December 11, 2017
Operating Council Information Session: December 12, 2017
COW – Operating Budget Review: January 18, 2018
Council Operating Budget Approval: January 22, 2018

The 2017 budget hit the people of Burlington with a 4%+ tax increase. The budget for 2016 wasn’t any better.

The long term thinking in 2016 was for there to be some pretty stiff budget increases that would in 2019.

Financial impact 20 year

The actual tax rate was always higher that the projection. The city of Hamilton kept their 2017 tax rate to less than 2%.



In 2016 the Mayor asked the city manager to look for new revenue sources. There was talk then about a Storm Water Management tax – that didn’t’ fly for a number of technical regions.

An architects rendering of the new entrance to the Joseph Brant Hospital whch will now face the lake. The entrance will be off LAkeshore Road with the new parking lot just to the west of the hospital.

The Joseph Brant Hospital now faces the lake.

The city is still paying down our part of the $60 million that we had to put up for the new and re-developed Joseph Brant Hospital. (Burlington actually had to come up with $120 million – half through a tax levy and the other half was to be raised by the Hospital Foundation.) When that special tax levy was put in place the understanding was that it would end when the hospital was paid for – that isn’t going to happen. The Finance people have built that special tax levy into their regular revenue.

When the $60 million cost was put on the table the then city manager Jeff Fielding said it was the largest sum of money the city has ever had to budget for – he might have added that it was going to be funds the city could look forward to spending forever.

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Brown calls for an inquiry into the state of city transit service.

News 100 blueBy Staff

September 13th, 2017



The chair of Burlington for Accessible. Sustainable Transit (BFAST) says he wants an independent inquiry into the reasons for the mess the system finds itself in.

Bfast Transit group logo“ ‘Disgraceful’ is not a strong enough word to describe the extent to which Council has overseen the decay of Burlington’s transit system,” said Brown. “We need an independent inquiry as to why this has been allowed to happen.”

“Not only has the transit system been starved of funds with the result that ridership has plummeted, but it has deteriorated to the extent that the safety of its passengers and other users of our roads has been called into question,” Brown said.

“Council must be accountable for this lamentable state of affairs and must get serious about Burlington’s transit service.”


Doug Brown,chair of Bfast, knows that a well run bus service is a beautiful thing.

Brown has long questioned the information Council has received from City staff on the transit file and says he was “not surprised” to find that the facts confirmed the system is in crisis.

Brown says the City needs a transit study that’s part of Burlington’s overall transportation plan. He says Council’s penchant for robbing the transit budget and “micro-management” of the system have been primary causes of its decay.

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