Council passes a bylaw - Taxes due on June 21 and September 21

News 100 blueBy Staff

May 16, 2017



Yesterday City Council approved the 2017 Tax Levy Bylaw that allows the Finance department to end you a tax bill on with payment dates of June 21 and Sept. 21, 2017.

Highlights of the budget which was approved in January include:

• The 2017 budget delivers a base budget increase that continues to invest in existing services and reflects the objectives of the city’s long-term financial plan.
• The budget maintains the $4.8 million annual contribution toward the Joseph Brant Hospital reserve fund to meet the city’s $60 million commitment to the redevelopment project.
• This budget continues City Council’s commitment to a dedicated annual tax increase to address infrastructure renewal based on the city’s Asset Management Plan.
• The city’s approved operating budget of $238 million for 2017 provides a wide range of services and programs, including the maintenance of roads, community facilities, fire protection, parks and transit.

Tax 2017 chart

Tax chart – breaks out what the city spends and what it collects for other levels of government.

Additional service investments for 2017 include:

$254, 000 for maintaining the urban tree canopy
$200, 000 for the maintenance of sports fields
$80,000 in enhancements to washrooms in waterfront parks
$30,000 to support ongoing community events.

The budget is made up of two parts –

Capital budget

Operating budget

The city provides an infographic setting out where those tax dollars are spent.

Tax operational 2017

Tax Capital budget infogr 2017

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The politicians romance transit users - now to get them to put some real money into the service. Prospects don't look all that good at the city council level.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 3, 2017



It was the third annual Burlington for fast meeting – the audience was much the same, the issues were the same, there were fewer politicians on hand – The Mayor the MPP and one ward Councillor.

Staff from Planning, Director Mary Lou Tanner and Transportation Director Vito Tolone were on hand.

What was very different was – the transit people were in the room and they made a very positive presentation.

Vito Tolone

Director of Transportation Vito Tolone on the left with Transit supervisor Bob Mennell on the right. Mennell did a great job of telling transit users how good things were going to be in the future. Time will tell on that one. Mennell would make a very convincing member of Council.

A former transit driver and now a supervisor Bob Mennell gave a presentation that was sprinkled with shout outs to many of his former customers. He kept referring to those occasions when he “looked the other way” when someone didn’t have the full fare.

Acting Director of Transit Jeff Black did a fine job of bringing people up to date on the changes that have been made.

Aiding Doug Brown, who has carried this project on his shoulders for the past couple of years was Collin Gribbons who moved to Burlington from the Pape and Danforth part of Toronto where he could “catch a bus or a subway to anywhere. “Can’t do that in Burlington – the system just doesn’t work,” was the way he put it.

Mayor Goldring positioned himself as a transit supporter who proudly announced that he had taken the bus to the event and added that while waiting for the bus to arrive someone had pulled up and offered him a lift. The Mayor declined and then went on to tell the audience how much money the federal government was pumping into transportation. Tonnes of dollars going into the GO system.

Which was fine according to Doug Brown who added that the dollars the Mayor was talking about were for capital projects – new buses and major upgrades to the GO system.

What Burlington needs is an operational contribution to transit and that is something city council can do. They haven’t done it yet.”

Funding COB lagsFunding numbers by cityThe gas tax rebate the city gets was at one point split 30% for transit and the rest for roads maintenance is now at 20%.

The audience learned that the population of Burlington was now 183,000 souls – Regionally there are 548,000 of us – that is projected to grow to 1 million by 20141

The draft Official Plan just released talks of 15 minute service for transit.

There are even plans to upgrade the downtown bus terminal that was going to be torn down less than five years ago.

The gas tax the province pays out now total $2.1 million for the province – that’s scheduled to rise to $4.2 million.


More Handi-vans are to be part of the improvement in the fleet.

There are going to be more Handi-vans

There was just no end to the things that transit was going to get.

Mohamed had come to the mountain,

There were significant cuts to the transit budgets in 2012 and schedule changes that did serious damage to ridership.

Bfast polls the audience each year and produces a report card.

Here it is – not much to be proud about.

Transit report card

The first report card – funding, the critical element has budged.

Transit report card 2017

Some improvement. The data comes from the people who use the service.

Jeff Black said the transit people needed to hear this – true enough. Bfast has been telling them often enough – they just weren’t listening.
During an interactive voting process that allowed opinions to be put on a screen instantly we learned that just 26% of the audience took transit to the meeting – the other 74% used some other mode of transportation.

Ridership decline

The reason for the decline has been poor service, lousy funding and a change to the schedules that drove passengers away from the service.

The city own 53 buses and 10 Handi-vans that carried 1.9 million riders in 2016.

It was all mind-boggling. Almost too much to really believe.

At the meeting was coming to an end Joey Edwardh, president of Community Development Halton was given the microphone. She linked arms with the Mayor, a symbolic way to pull him into her comments about just how much more needed to be done for transit.

Transit - unhappy customer

Do you get the impression the two on the right are actually listening?

The Mayor didn’t say much – while he may have become a transit convert – he is part of a council that has yet to understand the direction the civic administration is taking.

Four of the seven Councillors just don’t have much of an appetite for transit: Craven, Dennison, Taylor and Lancaster probably have not taken a Burlington Transit bus this Council term. One wonders if they own Presto passes.

Jim Young

Jim Young

The Mayor talked about all the funding that had come in from both the federal and provincial governments – didn’t say a word about municipal funding

120 people attended the Bfast forum, a record attendance.

Jim Young, that irrepressible promoter for better transit service said: “I think we are winning, but I’ve felt that way before” and added that ”present City Staff and management are very good at absorbing and paying lip service to engagement while quietly ignoring external inputs.”

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What we paid our city council members in 2016

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

February 28th, 2017



Why does what we pay our politicians of so much interest to people?

We don’t spend as much time on what we pay our Member of Parliament and the Member of the Provincial Legislature. Partly because what the municipal politicians do is much closer to home.
Explain the ongoing angst over the New Street Road diet?

Its impact is so exaggerated by both sides of the argument. A short change in the amount of time it takes to drive from one Line to the next is made to sound like the world is coming to an end for those who feel the road was put there by God himself and is a divine right for car drivers.

The cyclists explain that it is just a small part of the bike lane network they want to see build across the city.
Emotions do get stirred – and it takes a sensitive politician tuned to the will of the residents and a genuine desire to listen and find the needed compromises. We don’t have a lot of those on this city Council.


The significant seven – how many will return in 2018?

Most of them take the view that they were elected to make decisions, which they do, based on the world as they see it.

Councillor Sharman brings his pretty solid conservative views to the table and in order to avoid making a decision he continually asks for more data.

Councillor Taylor is of the view that if someone one needs support for transit they should undergo a means test.

He has somehow equated transit with social welfare. Taylor can probably not tell you when he was last on a bus in Burlington.

Councillor Meed Ward wants to maintain some height limitations that are not realistic and believes that the city can somehow stop the kind of growth that is going to take place.

Her colleague, Councillor Jack Dennison, would be quite happy to see a Burlington with 300,000 people living in with the city limits. He thinks like a developer.

The Mayor wants a city just like the one he was raised in – he forgets that both he and the city have grown up.
Councillor Lancaster has an elitist view of what a politician is supposed to do.

We commented on Councillor Craven in a separate article.

They are the people the citizens elected. That less than 40% of the population bothers to vote is not something you can blame on the politicians – even if they do make it very difficult for new comers to get elected.

Hundreds of people grouse about where these members of council fail – but very few step up and run for office.
The money isn’t great. No one is going to buy one of the larger homes on sale in his city with the salaries that are paid.

And those that really do the job put in long hours. The Mayor is out most nights of the week. Among the Council members he works the hardest.

Salaries + city council

Add about $55,000 in Regional salary to what the city pays and you arrive at a total of $120,000 a year. The hours are pretty easy with close to a month off in the summer. Pension is now very good,

Every member of Burlington’s city council is also a member of the Regional Council. They earn a separate amount from the Region – about $54,000 a year plus mileage expenses.

The current pension plans is very good.  For those that have been at the Council table for 20 years – the pnsion isn’t going to allow them to live in luxury.

Would paying more result in better council members; probably not but it would certainly attract a lot of people who see $100,000 as a great salary.

Municipal politics is nothing like the private sector and it takes a full term of office to get the hang of it.  some never get it and probably should not have been there in the first place.

Of the seven men and women we elect expect at least five of them to run for office in 2018.  The race for MAyor has been going on for some time.  On Monday at a Committee of the Whole meeting Councillor Meed Ward was serving as Chair.

MMW ate his lunch #3

Councillor Meed Ward ate the Mayor’s lunch at a Standing Committee on Monday.

There was an award  presentation to be given – the city was named as the winner of an Ontario Public Works Association award for the way they handled the 2014 flood.  These award presentations are usually done at city council meetings and not Standing Committee meetings.

The Mayor uses these occasions to give commendations to various groups and often receives an award the city is given along with the relevant staff members.

On Monday afternoon Meed Ward, as chair of the Standing Committee, decided that she would accept the award for the city and invited the Mayor to join her along with senior staff members.  Meed Ward had just eaten the Mayor’s lunch.


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Regional government boast a triple a - Aaa - credit rating. Gets points for fiscal responsibility. Transparency and accountability are another matter.

News 100 redBy Staff

February 16th, 2017



Quite why the Regional government would assign one of their communications advisors the task of preparing a media release on their credit rating is WORD

However we can now tell you that Moody’s Investors Service has upheld Halton Region’s Aaa credit rating—the agency’s highest—for the 29th consecutive year.

Profiling Halton’s strong governance and prudent fiscal policies, as well as its forward-looking operating and capital plans, Moody’s credit opinion report demonstrates a high level of confidence in the Region’s continued success.


Regional administration offices are in Oakville.

“Halton’s Aaa rating ranks us at the top end of Canadian municipalities,” said Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr. “The Region is a transparent, accountable and fiscally responsible government that ensures value for taxpayers’ dollars. We are proud to consistently earn this distinction while providing high-quality services and keeping taxes low—our strong financial position helps keep Halton a great place to live.”

Halton Map small

Halton Region created, in 1974, is made up of four municipalities and is defined as an upper tier of municipal government.

Maintaining a Aaa credit rating allows Halton and its local municipalities to finance major investments at the lowest possible long-term costs by providing continued access to the best capital financing rates available. It helps the Region maximize investments in Halton’s future while minimizing costs for taxpayers.

All municipal borrowing is done through the Region and on the strength of their credit rating.

What back up a credit rating is what you have to back up the borrowing. In the Region’s case the strength is the revenue stream which is based on the taxes you pay. Thus that credit rating has more to do with the value of your home.

The Region is for the most part a fiscally responsible level of government. As for transparency and accountability – they don’t earn the same triple a.

Moody’s report on Halton’s financial position highlights the following credit strengths:

• strong operating budgetary results, supported by stable revenues and well-managed expenses;
• prudent fiscal management and a commitment to long-term planning, supporting the generation of strong financial outcomes;
• declining debt burden and high levels of liquidity; and
• diversified economy and strong population growth.

The report also praised the Region’s conservative debt and investment policies, as well as its comprehensive, transparent and timely financial reporting. The agency assigned a stable outlook for Halton, with an expectation that the Region’s financial performance will remain strong.

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A fascinating exchange of opinions and views on the way we are taxed. Sharman and Muir go at it.

opinionandcommentThe exchange of opinions between an informed citizen and an elected member of city council can at times be fascinating.  This is the kind of conversation that can and should take place at delegations at council

The conversation that follows is between Councillor Paul Sharman (ward 5) and Aldershot resident Tom Muir.

The remarks in black are Muir writing.  The response from Sharman are in upper case blue letters.  Muir’s rebuttal’s  are in red.

Muir: I have had some opportunity over the last year or two to hear about the economic plan, strategic plan, and BEDC vision, but have not studied them in any detail.


I’m away for a while so it will have to wait till I return.

Muir making a point

Aldershot resident Tom Muir

Muir: You indicate there is an aligned new OP, but I must disagree, as we do not have a new OP as of yet, at least one that has gone through the required public consultation, debate, and Council approval processes under the Planning Act.


That’s part of the problem I think. The strategic plan is more about vision, is vague about specifics, and is less concrete and quantitative, which is where the OP enters. Residents are concerned about what the OP will entail with height, density, and intensification. That’s where the concern of disconnection with what residents will buy into, and the push-back is as you know.

Muir: Frankly, I have found it disturbing that the planning department seems to be making up an OP on the run, with developers, into something they would like it to be. The public and affected residents have been disconnected, and have not been given any opportunity for buy-in. Thus you have seen them giving Council push-back, so that way of getting a new aligned OP isn’t working and won’t work until the public processes are completed.

Paul Sharman served on the Shape Burlington Committee along with Lancaster. He was a bit of a "bull in a china shop" with that organization and brought the trait along with him when he got electd to Council.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman


Any generalization I may make is based on several recent years of engaging with INSPIRE talks, several OP related meetings, and development proposals, where it was apparent to residents that the planners were doing just what I described. The recent ADI example is this kind of planning thought in action. The development applications that have been in alignment are, to my experience, those that follow the OP by right height and densities with perhaps some acceptable tweaks.

Muir: Anyways this issue is an aside, and I only said this because you cited it as a part of some grand plan, which is my main point here.


I think you misunderstand my meaning here. I was only lumping the plans and documents you referred to – strategic, economic, BEDC, – into one grand plan frame. No offense or thoughts that these are not fully proper in the records of process. I did this to fit it into my main points of comment.

Muir: All the plans and so on that you list as being tied into the budget, are high level, visionary, and abstract – they are sort of wish lists, suggesting various paths to follow, and targets to meet. At least this is a summary of what I see these as, for present purposes.


I’m not disputing what you say. I’ve been involved in many plans myself. The fact they are all approved doesn’t matter in my comment points. Your last point about the quality of life is directly affected by my point raised and further described below. I have been hearing this about improving the lot of citizens for decades, and I see not much that describes how this has actually happened and is manifested. It’s easy to say, hard to deliver, and it needs to be confirmed by the citizens themselves. The budget and financial situation that I am talking about here are very direct measures of this quality of life.

Muir: My comments can be linked to these documents if you consider everything in them as contributing over time to a downstream integrated results endpoint. In my example here, I see this integrated results endpoint as the budget revenue-expenditure level, or gap, whether it be deficit or surplus. In other words, what is the bottom line of the business of the City? You should be concerned about this, but don’t appear to be in an active involved and publicly visible way.


OK, you say there are activities underway to consider this concern. I want to be clear that I am using the conception I describe as a heuristic device to illustrate how all the plans eventually integrate their complexity into the budget, and financial performance, indicated by tax rate changes and revenue-expenditure numbers reflected in deficits and ever increasing taxes or the opposite.

Muir: This gap can be seen as the overall key performance indicator that is the integration of all the upstream planning, vision, and implementation aspects you mention. OK, NOT SURE WHAT YOU MEAN. I mean how the tax rates and increases, or decreases, reflect the gap – deficit or surplus – between revenue and expenditure is a performance indicator of how the upstream planning etc are working out.

Simply putting my point, are we digging the tax hole deeper for residents and business with our plans, or are we gradually building a prosperity fund – an accumulating surplus – and getting a source of leverage for some grander plans for all to enjoy? THE LATTER.I don’t see this in the 10 year forecast that I saw.

My concern, as I described it previously, is that in the 10 year budget forecast the integrated performance indicator of the accumulated revenue-expenditure gap remains in deficit the entire projected time horizon.


As previous point, I saw a 10 year forecast of tax increases in the Gazette, and that’s all I have right now. I imagine Pepper grabbed it from somewhere city official.

Muir: I have to assume that the budget-makers are using forecast of future growth and development, revenue and expenditure, and how these might be affected by the several plans and vision documents you mentioned. So the tax hole is getting deeper the entire budget timeline of 10 years.


The tax hole is the ever-increasing tax take that just keeps increasing exponentially, produced by continuing deficits. I’m afraid the last sentence in this point should have been at the end of the previous paragraph. This is what I see for the 10 year forecast, and is the basis of the concern about doubling due to exponential increases.

Muir: So, in keeping to my point, the budget does not reflect a favorable performance of these high level, visionary, grand plans, as they appear when integrated, to continue to dig the tax hole deeper and the deficit gap continues.


This may all be true, but it is irrelevant to the concerns raised last year, and this year again, about the 10 year forecast of exponentially increasing city tax take. We are talking City and it doesn’t help with credibility to hide some concern behind the education and region increases that average the tax rate increase down.Your comment about education and region rates is double-edged, as I think they form a risk moving ahead and part of my concern. What happens if this changes negatively and what is the city going to do. And by the way, don’t forget the region charges for water and sewer separately from the taxes, and that always seems to increase substantially. So taking this into account is needed for a fair representation of the region’s tax or tax-like take.

Muir: This never-ending deficit will not help with development and growth in the city, but will in fact as as a damper on the ability of small and large business to thrive and survive.


But that is not the point I made. For the next 10 years the city is in deficit, with increasing taxes, from what I saw, however remarkably well they have done as you say. I should have said something about homeowners and residential taxes, also not helping with citizen quality of life. It also feeds right into the inflationary cost of housing that we are experiencing.

Muir: This summarizes, and provides a basis for, my concerns.


Your statement seems to take my point too lightly. The complexity all channels downstream to a financial and budget performance integrated endpoint. This is not just simplified, as there are complicated flows that are integrated from your picture of complex analysis. The end result of all the complexity is the gap – deficit or surplus – and is it increasing or decreasing, positive or negative. I do not see anything but deficit for the entire 10 years of the city plans and strategy, according to the financial and budget info on the table right now. The annual budget increase is being driven by the complexity and the plans and strategies that are not delivering performance measured financially as not in deficit.

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What your council members think of the $238 million dollar operating budget they passed last night.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 24th, 2017



For Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward it was a good budget – bad budget. There were thing she liked and things she thought were a mistake.

For Meed Ward the $550,000 they gave the city manager to spend on “project management” was something she needed clarity on; she wasn’t clear on just what the deliverables were going to be.

When city manager James Ridge was explaining what he was going to do with the $550,000 he said he was “surprised” the city hadn’t put in something like this years ago.

Meed Ward H&S profile

Councillor Meed Ward saw the 2017 budget as both a “good” and a “bad” budget. |She chose not to vote for the budget. A principled statement.

What bothered Meed Ward was that the $550,000 was going into the base budget – which meant it was there until someone decides to take it out. And in Burlington city staff are not very quick at taking anything out of the budget. The Finance department did say however that they had cut $1 million out of spending from the 2017 as they were putting the plans together. There was no breakdown of where the savings were found.

Meed Ward liked the $200,000 that was put into upgrading the playing fields.

She was content with the 1.25 tax levy dedicated to infrastructure.

She was Ok with the $4.8 million that was given to the hospital as the city’s portion of the $120 million the province said the city had to come up with for the refurbishment/redevelopment of the Joseph Brant Hospital.

Meed Ward wanted something done on transit – but that football got kicked further down the field – they are waiting for the draft of the Master Transportation Plan to come in – due in Q2

Councillor Sharman (ward 5) was all for the budget. He loves the $550,00 the city manager wants to spend on project management and said, with some gusto, that the 1.25% levy dedicated to infrastructure was long overdue. On that one he is correct. Why this wasn’t done a number of years ago boggles the mind.

Sharman pointed out that Staff did not support the $200,000 spend on playing field improvement but he liked the idea of spending some of the money needed to upgrade the fields this year with more to follow next year.

Sharman July 2016

Councillor Sharman uses a unique mathematical equation to arrive at the rate of tax increase levied on the tax payers.

Every council member noted that the next budget is going to dig even deeper into the pockets of taxpayers.  Don’t expect those statements to be repeated in the October 2018 municipal election

Sharman explained, as he always does – that the tax increase is really not 4.42 but closer to 3%. He does this mathematical magic by including what the Board of Education spends along with what the Region spends – and if the city controlled the spending by those two bodies – Sharman would be correct.

The city has no impact whatsoever on Board of Education spending and little influence on what the Region spends. Oakville has the same number of Regional representatives as Burlington but that town has a lot more clout.

Councillor Taylor (ward 3) said he had decided to support the budget and recognized that city staff had dug deeper and pulled out very significant savings – he then added that the 20 year growth goal is not going to be met.

Budget 2015 Continuous improvement

Business process management – put in place in 2015 – Councillor Taylor wants to see some of the benefits of that process paying off – soon.

Taylor has been on city council longer than any other member of council – he knows where the bones are buried – and if his nose smells something – the chances are that there is something foul coming our way.

Budget 2015 Services at the centre of it all

It was all supposed to come together – and the payoff was going to make it all worth the cost. Project managers are apparently needed now to make this work.

Taylor mentioned the process improvement procedures that were put in place a few years ago which he supported. He said he felt it was “time we saw some benefits now”.

Councillor Craven did what was expected – took yet another shot at Councillor Meed Ward and upbraided her for the comments she had made on transit. Meed Ward had said she felt the free transit service on Monday’s for seniors from 10 am to 3 pm should be tried on a pilot basis. Council turned down that idea choosing instead to wait for the draft Master Transportation Plan to arrive.

Councillor Rick Craven, centre, with a copy of the 2013 budget on a memory stick. Craven did a superb job of chairing the budget committee last year. He will have no argument with candidate Henshell over the need for additional shopping facilities in Aldershot - getting themt there has been the challenge.

Councillor Rick Craven, centre, with a copy of the 2013 budget on a memory stick. Finance does a superb job of giving council members all the information they could possibly want.

Craven told his colleagues that their job as Council members was to listen to what was said to them and then he pointed to the Integrated Transit Advisory Committee that was very critical of what Jim Young produced on behalf of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee about the transit service.

Councillor Dennison noted that he had chosen not to comment on the budget during the Standing Committee discussions. He added a significant comment when he said he had a grand total of 3-4 people at his ward meeting to talk about the budget which was apparently less than the city had at the budget briefing event they held at the Haber Recreation Centre in December.

Dennison pointed out that the $340,000 being spent on a bus route intended to service the seniors community was set up as a pilot project that was still in the budget.

Dennison announcingHe wanted to know why city staff had assumed that the increase in $200,000 in parking fines during a six month period would not continue to grow.

Staff had said that they felt a saturation point has been reached.

The city spent a very pretty penny on the new parking meters – to have those machines bring in an additional $200,000 in revenue to the city suggests they just may have made a solid decision – not that those getting the parking tickets will see it quite that way.

Dennison did think the city should look for more in the way of a return on its investments. It also brought in $200,000 in revenue. He wanted to know where that income was applied.

Dennison is not a big fan of the cultural sector – he does like the Sound of Music festival but feels the cultural sector, which is costing much more than a million a year, is a little too steep.

Finally the leaves are an issue for the ward 4 Councillor. He, along with Councillor Lancaster, want to see better leaf collection. The change in the weather this year, had trucks out picking up leaves while they were still on the trees and then not being available when the leaves were on the ground.

Burlington is apparently one of the few cities that has a leaf collection program. Try taking that one away from them.

Councillor Lancaster noted that “budgets are always a challenge” but that she “believed the 2017 budget represents what our residents want”.

Lancaster as deputy mayor with her Mom

Councillor Blair |Lancaster the day she filled in for the Mayor and chaired a council meeting. She liked the seat so much she had her Mother pose with her. She didn’t get to wear the chain of office – probably never will.

Lancaster was very much onside for that $550,000 spend on “project management”. She pointed out that this is the first time that funds have been put in place to support the Strategic Plan initiatives. Other council members had pointed out that in the past the city had crafted a Strategic Plan and then not put any money behind it. The city manager was probably the major force for creating a 25 year Strategic Plan which, while nice in principle – is not binding on future city council’s.

Lancaster told her colleagues that “residents should be happy”

Mayor Goldring was enthusiastic – this was a good budget and he was happy with the “heft” the project spending would give the city manager.

What worried Mayor Goldring was the lack of any assessment growth. He said the growth needs to be six times what it was last year and explained that it does take time for the benefits of assessment increases to work their way to the city’s till.

There is a fiscal study coming sometime in the 2Q that may have some of the answers.

Mayor Goldring: Is there an event he won't attend? He doesn't have to get out to everything - but he usually does.

Mayor Goldring regrets the lack of assessment growth that would put more money into the city’s cash coffers. Hoping that there will be an increase next year.

Mayor Goldring said he was looking to the Economic Development Corporation to deliver on its mandate to bring new business to the city. There haven’t been many (any?) new business announcement lately.

The vinyl record company that finally got the record presses operating will tell you a very sad story about the hoops they had to go through to get their building permit in hand.

The last word on the budget and what it is expected to do goes to Joan Ford who said: “This budget clearly sets out initiatives to plan for the future. These initiatives became key priorities for new city investment when developing the budget this year. Connecting the strategic plan to the budget provides accountability between what is achieved and the cost to the taxpayer.”

Let’s see how that works out.

Tax billing
With the budget passed the Finance department can now begin to send out the tax bills – that is when the rubber will hit the road. The public doesn’t pay that much attention to the goings on at city hall but when that envelope with the tax bill arrives – the sticker shock take effect.

The city has to pass a levying by-law before they can send out both interim or final tax billing. They have done that.

Interim tax billings are produced in January based on the assessment as per the assessment roll provided by MPAC and ½ the appropriate tax rates.

The tax bill will clearly identify the City, property, owner, state the demand date, calculated taxes levied and any arrears owing against the property.

Final tax billings are produced subsequent to the passing of the annual city budget and are based on tax rates established by by-law from the budget requirements of the City, Region and Ministry of Education.

The billing will be calculated to produce a tax billing equal to the assessment times the appropriate rate, all local improvement charges and any special charges levied by the city.

Mail box

Tax bill will arrive soon enough – hold your breath for a moment before you open it.

The Municipal Act requires tax billings be sent to every taxpayer at least twenty-one calendar days before the first installment due date.

Due dates for the payment of taxes are traditionally as follows: Interim Bill: February and April. Final Bill: June and September.

Keep an eye on your mail box.

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Technology fails city council once again - program that records the votes wasn't working - it never has worked. What did it cost?

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Staff

January 23, 2017


The budget of  $238 million for 2017  was approved Monday night – on a vote of 5-2 with Dennison and Meed Ward voting against the budget that was debated earlier in the month and came out o the Budget Committee of the Whole as recommended.

The Gazette has noticed that Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison tends to always vote against the budget – knowing there will be a majority and that the budget will pass.

The decision was made on a recorded vote – which meant that we would get to see members of Council pressing a button on a device that was in front of them – the vote would be cast and the results would appear on a screen and look like this:


This is what the screen is supposed to look like – it shows what the vote is about and how each member of council actually voted. But it doesn’t work.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. The years were asked to stand and give of them did that – the nays were asked to stand and two of them did that.

So where was the technology that was to record the votes for the public to see whenever they wished? Apparently it isn’t working – yet.

The Halton District School Board has a system that works flawlessly. And they record every vote – not just the city council votes the way the city does,

School board votes

School boards voting results – there for everyone to see.

Burlington city council does not record who voted how on matters that come out of the Standing Committees as recommendations.

The vote to approve the budget was passed on a 5-2 vote – with Councillors Meed Ward and Dennison voting against the budget.


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Ward 5 Councillor tells city resident he is still trying to figure out the 4.56% planned tax increase.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 23, 2017



Sometime this evening, before 10:00 pm, city council will decide in a formal manner what the tax increase for 2017 is going to be.

Staff had originally put forward a budget that has an increase of 4.23% over last year which city council members, during a Committee of the Whole – Budget meeting, bumped up 4.56%.

The public has not taken to this very well.

Aldershot resident Tom Muir, in a communication to Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman set out his concerns and said that he: “appreciated that the tax details and requests are complex, but that misses a point that I made. You get lost in the details, as the arguments for and against any specific item are amplified greatly when the line item numbers get larger and larger.

“Each item can always be argued to be justified for some reason, and we apparently have limited or no means to assess what we actually got in return and concrete results benefiting the taxpayers who are paying for all of this.
“And like the hospital tab, these things just get built into the base budget in subsequent years, unless they are specified as one-off items.

“Of concern is the apparent continued absence of any Council expression of intent to work at reducing the endless increases projected over the years. This trend is telling us that the path we are on is not leading to a good place, and something must be wrong if we can’t even pay our way with the plan of the city.

James Ridge - looking right

City manager James Ridge asks Council to come up with $500,000 for staff to handle Project Management.

“The city can’t even deliver a management plan without an extra $500,000. What are we getting for that money?
City manager James Ridge asked for an amount of $500,000 each year to cover the cost of Project Management services. The Gazette will explain what it is Ridge wants the money for and the explanation he gave council members.

“There’s no indication that I see. What are the deliverables, and where and who is the accountability lead? This is an example of one of those soft money projects that are yet another head shrinking navel gazing exercise by managers who, in my opinion, have developed the plans that they now seem to need a half a million to figure out.

“Also, despite all I have heard for decades about the great growth plans of the city, these plans have not delivered, and while the assessment growth has fallen, the costs of running the city are not falling.
City treasurer did say that $1 million in costs were cut from the budget.

“The city is falling behind on infrastructure renewal, and this just continues unabated. And Development Charges have long been a source of ongoing costs of growth to taxpayers, taking, as you say, a chunk of the assessment revenue as a hidden cost offset.

Muir making a point

Aldershot resident Tom Muir making a point at a public meeting.

“I am unable, in a reasonable time, to coherently analyze and discuss the complex details of the budget. But as a general rule, my work experience with managers is they can always come up with a spending plan that yet again tries to figure out what they are doing and why.

“That’s why I say that the only way to deal with complex situations, with thin rationales, and opaque deliverables and defined results, that entail fiscal consequences of arguable sustainability, is by simplification.

“That was my suggestion. Just tell the managers and finance that they only get a no frills target percent increase and they have to figure out how to meet the target. That’s what I thought we paid them for – to manage, not just to build empires bigger than needed. If something doesn’t get gone, so what, the world will not end.

“I didn’t note my pension increase to cry poor, but to show you what the reality is for many people who are paying the taxes you are imposing, but seemingly without any recognition of the cumulative effects over longer time periods. Many people do not get any inflation increase, making it worse. And all people more or less have to pay the same kinds of bills that you cite as impacting the city operating costs.

Gayle Cruikshank, Executive Director, seated and Kelly Stronach, Manager of Program Development: two of the xx team that make Food for Thought work day in and day out as one of the United Way funded agencies in Burlington.

Gayle Cruikshank, seated, then Executive Director of Food for Thought, and Kelly Stronach, Manager of Program Development.

Gayle Kabbash, Community Relations Manager at Food4Kids and a former Fundraiser and Community Developer at Community Living Oakville and a former Food & Logistics Specialist at Student Nutrition and a former Executive Director at Halton Food for Thought, knows a little bit about food budgets. Said on her Facebook page – “Geez- just went to pick up a few groceries and it fit in 1 bag and the bill was $75. The only meat was chicken breasts and wings. The rest was eggs, peppers, a baguette, one brick of cheddar cheese, clementines, 2 small bags of nuts, and celery salt for caesars (a must). These were purchased at a low cost grocery store. Anyone else feeling the Pain?”

Muir continues: “As well, these tax increases also have to be paid for by businesses, and many have thin margins that these tax costs just nibble away at, and they have similar bills again.

“I see no plan, no mention in the portions of the budget debate I have watched that there is anything being done to get control of these inflation-inducing increases in the percent tax increases year after year. These increases often, as I said, come with no description of a project proposal, with work plans, deliverables, responsibilities, results, and accountability arrows.

“The discussion of fiscal sustainability is, like last year, now lost in the end of the budget-making process for the year. Where is the committee of staff and council to get a handle on this exponential climb of taxes?

“Finally, my lingering concern is that citizens are wasting their time trying to get you folks to see the error of your ways, and the path you are putting the city on, by not dealing with this in a serious and visible manner.”

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

In 2011 Councillor Sharman banged away at his fellow council members and got a 0% increase in taxes – so he did once know how to be fiscally responsible.

Councillor Sharman had earlier in the month written to Muir saying “we are aware that pension income does not increase at the same pace as either inflation or the overall architecture of city finances. ‎The city is driven by long term fiscal sustainability objectives.

“That discussion is not over yet, but we are trying to figure it out.”

Indeed it is not!

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Get married at city hall - and be forced to make a right hand turn on Lakeshore - two goodies for you from your city council

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Staff

January 20th, 2017



Some of the budget goodies that you get for your tax dollars.

You will be able to get married at city hall – sometime this year.

It wasn’t clear in the budget deliberations whether this service is being offered by the Parks and Recreation department or the Clerk’s department.

No word on what the costs are going to be and if there is going to be a room spiffed up for the weddings.

Flood Goldring with chain of office

The Mayor could, if he chose to, perform wedding ceremonies, now that city hall has decided to allow them to take place at city hall. some people just might like the “bling”: the Mayor gets to wear.

The Mayor is known as the Chief Magistrate of the city and would have the authority to perform a wedding ceremony – sort of like the Captain on a cruise ship. He will need to get a license from the province to make the ceremony legal.

Great photo op – and this Mayor did say sometime ago that he finally gets it – it is all about getting your picture taken.

Cam Jackson would have been all over this one.

A limited market but the sign of a progressive city; the LGBTQ community may find it convenient.

The other goody is one that will please many who use Lakeshore Road frequently.

Traffic barriers in place on LAkeshore for the Car Free Sunday last year were expensive and not really used. The event was poorly attended.

Traffic barriers in place on Lakeshore for a Car Free Sunday a number of years ago. Councillor Dennison wants all those right hand lanes to be forced to take a right hand turn. Wants to see the same thing done on Maple and Lakeshore Road as well. He is tired of watching cars rush up the right hand lane and then cut in to traffic.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison who lives on Lakeshore Road complained of the people who move into the right hand lane and speed up past all the cars on the left and then cut into the traffic later on.

Dennison wants all those right hand lanes to be right hand turn lanes – forcing drivers to make the right hand turn.

That should make for much fun. All part of an Operating budget that came in at more than $152 million plus – representing a 4.56% increase over the tax rate last year.

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Brant Museum closed - has been closed for well over a month. No one at city hall knew.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

January 19th, 2017



It came as a surprise to the city.

An inquiry from a reporter, it wasn’t us, to the city manager, asking why the Museum revealed that the Brant Museum had been closed since the beginning of the year.


Museum Board has plans for a major upgrade to the Brant Museum - is this a place for you and your skill set?

Museum Board has plans for a major upgrade to the Brant Museum – they closed the museum until they know what is gong to happen to their grant application.

The Museum Board recently appeared before city council seeking assurances that the city would provide a letter that was needed to advance the application for significant federal grants that would cover the cost of the transformation the museum has planned.

A number of people from the Museum Board appeared and delegated but not one of them advised the city that they had closed the Brant Museum when Lakeshore Road was being rebuilt and that they just didn’t reopen it.

Barbara Teatero, Executive Director Museums Burlington

Barbara Teatero, Executive Director Museums Burlington

So much for transparency – and it kind of shakes the confidence the city has in both the Executive Director and the Museum Foundation. Councillor Lancaster represents the city on the Burlington Museum Board – surely she would have known – did she lose her tongue?

The city spends about $600,000 on the museums – it was suggested that the budget be reduced given that there is now just the one museum and not two.

The city manager pointed out that the biggest expense is the cost of Barbara Teatero, the Executive Director. Fine – she has just half the work to do now – reduce her salary. Ms Teatero is due for retirement soon.


New look for the Brant Museum – closed now – will it ever re-open?

There is no word on just how long the Museum is going to be closed. Nor has the city learned anything about what they plan to do if the federal funding does not come through – the due day for that announcement is January 25th – that would mean the decision has been made – they just aren’t saying anything yet.

The Mayor is scheduled to give his State of the City address on the 25th – that will be quite early in the day – and the MP for the city is not going to let the Mayor steal the thunder behind that announcement.

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Budget approved - taxes will increase by 4.42%

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 19th, 2017



City council passed a budget that reflects an increase over last year of 4.42%

The budget decision was not unanimous – passed on a vote of 5-2.

Mayor Goldring said in his comments on the budget that this was the first time he recalls a budget coming out with a higher amount than they had when they started; in other words they increased the spending beyond wat staff had asked for.

Friends of Freeman got the $50,000 they needed; the seniors lucked out – no free transit for them.

More details to follow

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Does this city council have the political will to reign in the spending. Operational budget to be debated on Thursday.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 19th, 2017



City council will be meeting as a Committee of the While (COW) today to go through the Operating Budget; they have already decided on what the Capital budget is going to be.

The number floating around city hall at this point is an increase of 4.6% which is resulting in serious heart burn on the part of those who pay taxes and pay attention to this kind of stuff.

One of those people is Tom Muir, an Aldershot resident who has been tracking the goings on at city hall for more than 25 years.

In a recent note he sent to the members of council, the city manager and the city clerk Muir had this to say:

“I’m not going to repeat myself too much from last year, but the percent increases for the city are still on track to double in about 19 years or less.

“I wrote Council last year and the response I got was that they were concerned about it too, and were going to work on it over the coming year. Well, here we have the results. You still don’t get it.

“The city assumed inflation rate is 2%, but my pension increase, based on the CPI, only went up 1.4%, as did my wife’s’.

Muir making a point

Tom Muir, an Aldershot resident who has been delegating to city council for more than 25 years – he is relentless.

“In the Mayor’s December newsletter, he said that he thought the budget could be whittled down to something more like the 2%.

“I worked in government for 33 years, and went through a lot of budget cuts. The way it was done, if the guv was serious about it, was just to tell the managers and the finance people to cut the budget across the board to meet the target expenditure increase.

“No nonsense or sacred cows, except entitlements. Don’t get lost in every line item. Just do it at the high level.

“Then managers cut where you want, but just make the cuts.

“This is what is needed now. The idea that there is nothing left to cut is absurd.

“It’s all in the approach and the political will.”

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman responded to Muir with the following:

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 once a hard driving member of Council. He all but man-handled his fellow council members into a 0% increase in 2010.

“You will appreciate that City operations and assets are quite complex. ‎ You also know from participating in DC (Development Charge) review committees that assessment growth has subsidized growth and Infrastructure renewal costs in the past, neither of which are reflected by inflation indicators.

“Of course Burlington assessment growth is quite low now, meanwhile we are trying to recover from decades of underfunding of future infrastructure repair and renewal, which is a substantial driver of cost.

Sharman MMW tangle

Councillor Sharman, with his back to the camera, going at it with Councillor Meed Ward at a 2011 Strategic Plan meeting. He was a different council member in those days.

“Certainly, we are aware that pension income does not increase at the same pace as either inflation or the overall architecture of city finances. ‎The city is driven by long term fiscal sustainability objectives. That discussion is not over yet, but we are trying to figure it out.

“I would suggest that we fully “get it”. I will be pleased to discuss the situation with you at any time.”

How much confidence do you want to take from those statements?

What is perplexing and at the same time interesting is that when Councillor Sharman was involved in budget deliberations in his first budget meeting during his first term of office he drove the budget increase down to 0%.

He was merciless. There were a couple of general managers at the time who were incensed with his approach – Sharman couldn’t have cared less. He wanted a 0% increase and he kept pushing until he go it.

That Councillor Sharman seems to have morphed into a different person.

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Looking like a 4.23% tax increase for 2017 - 2018 might touch 5% - and that hospital levy is here forever.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 17th, 2017



While city council works through the operational budget for 2017 – they will be doing the heavy lifting on Thursday and settle on what the taxes will be at a city council meeting on the 23rd.

The Finance department has done all its prep work – it is now in the hands of city council

Director of Finance Joan Ford did say that while the proposed tax increase is above the 4% level – they have managed to whittle away more than $1 million on the spending side.

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 struggle for the city is upgrading the infrastructure which needs millions more. This is the result of tax increases that were at the 0% level during the late 90’s. Ford pointed out that if tax increases had been as little as 1% a year for those ten years the city would not be in the uncomfortable situation it is in today.

When the province told the city that it was going to have to come up with $60 million to pay for part of the hospital renovation/redevelopment program and that the hospital foundation would also have to come up with an additional $60 million a special levy was placed on the tax bill.

That levy was supposed to end in 2019 but it has been “repositioned” infrastructure. City council, on the advice of the finance department decided that they would just change the original reason for a tax – give it a new name and continue to collect the money.

There was never an explanation. That one has election issue potential written all over it.

A decision made in November of 2012 approved Long Term Financial Plan which included the following key strategic objectives for the city:

1. Competitive Property Taxes
2. Responsible Debt Management
3. Improved Reserves and Reserve Funds
4. Predictable Infrastructure Investment
5. Recognized Value for Services

The Director of Finance presented a 2017–2036 operating forecast.  It is not a pretty picture through to 2019 – after that is gets digestible.

20 year drivers 2017 budget graph

The purple line is the one that matters. It represents spending the city does. The bar chart is the tax increase when you add in the school tax, which the city has no impact on and the Region budget which we are part of but we don’t make that decision – we do influence it.

The forecast is based on estimated budget drivers using the 2017 budget numbers as a starting point.

Ford pointed out that the simulation forecast has greatest precision in the first year and added that it is imperative that the results are simply used as an information tool regarding major budget drivers and future projected tax impacts.

Not only does it provide an analysis of what the future financial picture for the City of Burlington might look like, but it also helps assess financial risks and the affordability of existing and new services, existing and future capital investments, as well as provides an opportunity to analyze sensitivities to assumptions.
Looking into the future means considering:

• Changes in economic conditions and market demands
• Fluctuations in customer expectations
• Legislative changes
• Reassessment impacts
• Operating impacts from approved capital initiatives
• Joint venture and other business agreements
• Business process improvements

Assessment growth has been a bug bear for the finance department. Expecting assessment growth of 1.6% was projected for one year – it came in at 0.15%.

Staff have shown a realistic scenario where assessment growth is maintained at 0.6% per annum; no new legacy projects are forecasted; and infrastructure renewal funding is addressed over the 20-year time horizon, as per the Asset Management Financing Plan. These components provided the basis for estimating budget drivers and include the following assumptions within each item:

Maintaining Current Service Levels – Base Budget
Inflationary Impacts and User Fees
• With the exception of human resources and commodities (hydro, water, fuel etc.), 2.0% inflation per year has been applied to all other expense categories (materials and supplies, purchased services and contributions to local boards and committees)

% cubes

Taxpayers would prefer a different % in that tax increase.

• The increases to User Rates and Fees assumed a 2.0% increase per annum, which is dependent on the nature of the revenues and external market conditions

• An annual increase of 3% to the Vehicle Depreciation Reserve Fund to sustain the City’s fleet and equipment inventory

Corporate Expenditures/Revenues
• An annual increase to the provisions for Insurance and Contingency Reserves of $100,000 each.

• An increase in Investment Income of $100,000 per year in 2019 and beyond given the current low interest rate environment.

• Reversal of one-time revenue of $220,000 for assessment growth stabilization in 2018.

Other Expenditures
Infrastructure Renewal Funding and Joseph Brant Hospital

• An annual increase of 1.25% for Dedicated Infrastructure Renewal Funding from 2017-2022, reduced to 1.0% for 2023-2033 and 0.5% for 2034 and 2036. This provides funding for capital renewal, as per the Asset Management Financing Plan (approved 20-year scenario).

JBH renering July -15 with passageway to garage

That special tax levy for the hospital is apparently with us forever – money will go into infrastructure starting in 2019.

• An annual increase of $200,000 (2020-2024) in order to phase in required increase for debt charges.

• Includes the repositioning of the hospital levy to infrastructure renewal in 2019 ($1.5 million), 2026 ($800,000) and 2027 ($2.5 million)
Business Cases

• Details from the 2017 Capital Budget and Forecast as well as growth related operating impacts in the future
• In order to address Service enhancements, similar to the one included in the 2017 Proposed Budget for Tree Service ($254K), $600,000 have been included in the 2018 Forecast for Playfield Service levels, reducing to $400,000 annually from 2019 and beyond for other Service enhancements.

Allowance for Unknown Factors

As with all forecasts, it is imperative to recognize that there are a vast number of unknown factors that will likely occur in the future that could impact the model. In order to address these unpredictable factors, an amount of $100,000 has been included in the 2019 forecast, increasing by $50,000 per year until 2027, and maintained at $500,000 beyond that.

Assessment Growth
The weighted assessment growth for the 2017 budget is 0.15%. Assessment growth is estimated to be 0.6% in 2018 and maintained unchanged for the remainder of the 20- years. Over the last 5 years, weighted assessment growth has ranged from a low of 0.15% to 1.16%. The five year average is 0.75%.

The proposed 2017 Budget reflects a city tax impact of 4.23%.

Tax increases proposed 2017 - 2036

An increase for 2017, which is greater than the increase in 2016, which was greater – you’re getting the picture aren’t you?

The simulation forecasts the city tax impact from 2018 to 2036 to begin at 4.96% reducing to 2.90%.
While staff will look for ways to smooth out the timing of operating impact from prior approved capital projects, it is important for council to recognize the significant pressures in 2018. One way to stabilize significant spikes would be to partially advance a known 2018 budget pressure. While this would increase the 2017 budget, it could assist in mitigating the 2018 forecasted impact.

Keep in mind that 2018 is an election year; some of the members of council might want to get re-elected.
Councillors Taylor and Dennison were on council when those 0% tax increases were boasted about. They might choose to take their pensions and move on before the proverbial hits the fan.

There is a young candidate with significant potential looking closely at Taylor’s ward 3 seat.

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Jim Young is going to give it another go at council on Monday - he wants the city to properly fund transit.

News 100 redBy Staff

January 15th, 2017



Sometime Monday forenoon Jim Young will take to the podium at city hall and brief members of Council on the 28 page document he prepared on what the Senior’s Advisory Council would like to see done with transit.

Jim Young has been advocating for better transit for some time. He came close to getting a change during the budget debates in 2016 when he wanted the city to make transit free for seniors on Monday’s.

The ward four debate gave Rick Goldring a lot to think about - he was never challenged like this when he ran for the office of Mayor in 2010

Mayor Rick Goldring voted for the transit pilot program in the 2016 budget.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster thinking through the answer to a question. Tends to be cautious.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster voted for the pilot transit program in the 2016 budget


Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward voted for the transit pilot program during the 2016 budget.

The Mayor, Councillor Meed Ward and Councillor Lancaster voted for what was to be a pilot program. The Director of Transit at the time wasn’t for the idea. He has since left the city.

Councillor Craven is reported to have told an Aldershot resident that he liked the program – but he did not vote for it – that may have been because almost anything Councillor Meed Ward puts forward, Craven opposes. He didn’t speak at any length on the matter during the debate.

Councillor Paul Sharman voted no – he wanted more data. Councillor Sharman always wants more data before he makes a decision – there does come a point when a decision has to be made based on experience and wisdom. There was the sense that the asking for additional data was punting the ball off the field.

Councillor John Taylor voted no – saw free transit as social welfare which most people didn’t need. Councillor Taylor couldn’t help but see free transit as some form of social welfare; his mind is still stuck in that old style thinking.


Councillor Taylor saw free transit as part of the social welfare system – a Regional responsibility.

One wonders why Taylor does not label the $225,000 that is forgone in terms of parking fees for the free parking members of staff get every year. With that kind of money the city could make the transit service free to everyone.

Councillor Dennison voted against the proposal.

Young personifies persistence and so he will be at it again on Monday asking council to put more money into transit.

The paper he has presented was adopted by the Burlington Seniors’ Advisory Committee: November 14, 2016.

The chances that every member of council will actually read all 28 pages is slim.

Here is a short summary of what Jim Young wants your city council to do to improve transit.

Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for All
Improved Frequency and Reliability of Transit Service
Synchronize Smaller Community Buses to Larger Bus Hub to Hub Routes
Routing community bus services through satellite Seniors Centres
Restoring Service Stops in Major Malls
A Return to 70/30 Division of Transit/Roads Gasoline Tax Funding
Filling the City’s Buses During Off-Peak Hours

At busy holiday shopping periods buses get trapped in Maple View Mall - killing schedules. City is in talks with the Mall management.

At busy holiday shopping periods buses get trapped in Maple View Mall – killing schedules.

The Major Objectives of the BSAC Paper are:

To improve service and increase ridership of Burlington Transit.
To get more people out of cars and on to transit.
To move the city towards achievement of its 25 year Strategic Plan.
Contribute to growth in our city.
Reduce traffic congestion and improve road safety in Burlington.
Reduce CO2 emissions and help limit global warming.
Provide a safe, dignified means of transport for many who suffer restricted mobility.
Address the paradox that those most in need of public transit are those least able to afford it.


“Public transit is one of the most complex issues facing cities and indeed nations today. It poses a series of problems that are complicated and difficult to solve. Every city, every politician wants successful transit systems.

They move people, contribute to growth, reduce congestion, improve road safety, reduce CO2 emissions, help limit global warming, provide a safe means of transport for many who would otherwise suffer restricted employment and social mobility.

The paradox is that those most in need of public transit are those least able to afford it. The elderly, the young, the working poor, students, single parents, physically and intellectually challenged citizens and, returning to the elderly, those who have had driver’s licenses rescinded due to age related health issues.

Putting aside any notion of “seniors entitlement”, Burlington Senior Advisory Committee (BSAC) wants to add the voice of seniors’ experience, knowledge and love of our city to the transit debate. Of course we recommend improvements in transit that benefit seniors, but we do so very firmly from the perspective that: “Whatever Improves Transit for Senior’s, Improves Transit for Everybody”. This philosophical principle improves transit for our children and grandchildren, improves transit for Burlington and improves Burlington as: A City that Grows, A City that Moves, A Healthy and Greener City, An Engaging City, achieving all of the elements of our city’s 25 year strategic plan.

Burlington Transit getting new buses - to deliver less service.

Burlington Transit getting new buses – to deliver less service.

Among politicians there is an almost universal love affair with the benefits of public transit. This is logically offset by concerns about how cities will finance the level of public transit required to achieve all of our lofty goals. The dichotomy has always been whether to wait for increased ridership to justify the cost of improving transit or, to invest in improved transit and trust that the ridership will follow.

This BSAC position paper hopes to point a way that allows Burlington to take some simple, relatively inexpensive actions that will increase ridership, contribute towards some of the social and environmental issues facing every city, and offer medium and longer term improvements that might make Burlington Transit a model for other medium sized city transit systems which becomes a showcase for the city worldwide.

A number of weeks ago Young upbraided city council for forgetting just why they were eleted. At that time he said:

When you deny constituents the reasonable opportunity to advise you during council term at meetings such as this, you leave them no other option but to voice their frustrations through the ballot box at election time.

Look at recent election results, where voters vented their frustration at the perception that politicians are not listening, do not provide the opportunity for citizens to be heard, a perception that has given voice to the Fords, the Trumps and the Brexiteers who, bereft of policy or vision or even civil discourse, at least pretend to listen, pretend they will be the voice of the people.

Then proceed to undo all the good that has been done, the community that has been built by that slow and frustrating democratic process.

I will finish by challenging each of you who wish to limit the participation of citizens in the affairs of our city:

Will you please explain to this gathering tonight how limiting delegations to 5 minutes is good for our democracy, good for our city?

Will you then publish that explanation in your Newsletter for all your constituents to see and to judge for themselves?

Will you stand at your regular town hall gatherings and tell the people of your wards why you want to silence their voice?

Because you will stand before them in 2018 and they will demand to know.

The motion to reduce delegation time at Standing Committee from ten minutes to five was defeated – in some measure due to the comments Young made.

Will he manage to convince council to re-think the way they fund transit?getting new - yellow


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First piece of a pathway-bikeway that will link the west side of the city to the Centennial Trail on the east.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

November 22th, 2016



It’s a quirky little project that will look really nice when completed and serve to let people get across the three block downtown core but it has some entanglements; there is a major pipeline running beneath the path.


A view of what is in place now and what the landscape architects want to space to look like.

The project is included in the Core Commitment Implementation Strategy to improve active transportation in the downtown and enhance pedestrian and cycling connections.


Phase 1 will cover the space between Elizabeth and Pearl Street. It would fit in very nicely with the now under construction Bridgewater development that will soar 22 storeys into the sky.

To be known as the Elgin Street Promenade it will be a pathway/walkway/bike path that will start sort of nowhere and go nowhere but when completed will link two sides of the city.

The drawings the city has provided are attractive enough; when completed it might do something to upgrade the sort of dowdy look the downtown core has.

There are some issues – there is a pipeline beneath the planned route that carries fuel.  That pipe line is tightly tucked beside the Mayrose Tyco building at the top of the Elizabeth Street parking lot – something the city is trying to find something to do with.  It is a piece of prime land that is used to park cars – not really great use of land.

At one point it was tagged as the location for what McMaster was going to bring to the city.  They chose the South Service Road instead.

Village Square, at one point a partnership between the Friedman family and German interests, it is now believed to be controlled by the German partner.  There was a time when the ADI Development Group attempted to negotiate with the Friedman but that didn’t go anywhere.

The first phase of the project will take what is currently a one way street that runs alongside the Martini House and the Poacher will be upgraded to a rather nice part of town that was once the bus depot.


On the east the Promenade gets people to the Centennial Trail. On the west is complete the link that will get people to the planned Beachway Park that is the biggest dream in the eyes of planners at both the city and the Region.

The long term plan should allow people to walk or cycle from the very east end of the city all the way west to the canal.

Bugeted at something in the order of $450,000 your members of Council will decide if this project should be part of the 2017 Capital budget.


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City finance department will present what they are up against when determining the next tax hike. Will the seven people who have been elected to office twice manage to get even close to a 2% increase?

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

November 14th, 2106


The Gazette will be publishing a series of articles leading up to the first of the city council discussions and debates on the 2017 budget. This is the first of that series.

Back in July the Finance department gave city council a report setting out the parameters on which staff was preparing the 2017 budget.

In a report going to committee later this month staff outlines principles that have been recognized by Council as important policy decisions, as well as highlight budget drivers that will impact the 2017 budget.

In November 2012 Council approved the City of Burlington’s Long Term Financial Plan which outlined strategic objectives and policies to ensure financial sustainability and responsible financial management.

In March 2015, the BMA report provided recommendations that enhanced the existing financial policies to ensure fiscal sustainability and maintain flexibility to address changing conditions. BMA does a Municipal Study in which over 100 municipalities participate annually.  The study allows municipalities to compare their spending and there reserve positions with that of other comparative municipalities.

The 2017 budget will keep with the objectives and updated policies. In addition, in January 2016, Council received the 20-Year Simulation of Forecasted Budget Drivers which provided a high level overview of major budget drivers and expected future tax rate impacts. Inherent in the annual operating budget process are the normal pressures of inflation, growth, resources and fluctuating revenues, compounded by infrastructure renewal costs. This forecast as presented continues to recognize the anticipated drivers for the 2017 budget year.


The city’s budget for each fiscal year is divided into two parts: the capital budget which is more long term and the operational budget which covers what the city expects to spend during a given fiscal year. Added into this is the surplus from the previous year.

2017 Capital Budget: Continued changes to the capital budget bring focus to infrastructure renewal projects. The capital budget continues to remain a 10-year program, broken down by asset categories. Any projects outside the scope of infrastructure renewal or the Development Charge program (growth) will continue to require a business case for Council’s consideration during the budget review process.

2017 Operating Budget: The operating budget will continue to focus on maintaining service delivery. Changes to levels of service will require a business case.

The 2017 operating budget will once again be presented in a service-based format with two years history for comparison. As service business plans do not dramatically change year-over-year, for 2017, they will not be included in the Operating Budget book. However, business plans will updated for 2017 and made available for reference purposes.

In their place, will be a service summary form, enhanced to include additional commentary by service owners on significant changes to the base budget. In addition, all business cases, both capital and operating will include commentary as to how the requested change aligns to one or more of the following items: City’s Strategic Plan, City Manager’s Work Plan, Departmental Work plan, Service Business Plan and any legislative changes that may take place.

This is the first year the operating budget will be developed using a new budget software system.
The 2017 budget timelines are expected to be similar to last year with a January approval of the Operating Budget. In future years the Finance department will be targeting more aggressive timelines which would bring both the Capital and Operating Budgets forward together in advance of year-end.

The proposed timeline for the 2017 budget process.

Capital Budget Overview November 21, 2016
• Capital Council Information Session November 24, 2016
• Public Engagement July – November 2016
• Capital Budget Review December 8, 2016
• Operating Budget Overview December 8, 2016
• Operating Council Information Session December 15, 2016
• Council Capital Budget Approval December 19, 2016
• Operating Budget Review January 19, 2017
• Council Operating Budget Approval January 23, 2017

The chart set out below highlights the results of Council’s comprehensive budget deliberations at both the City and the Region.


Over the last three years the average city tax rate change is 3.43% (including the hospital)

On the same November 21st agenda is a report outlining the Phase 1 Financial Plan for the Strategic Plan.

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 and policy proposals.  Rarely however does a budget get changed as a result of ideas from these meetings.  The city uses the occasions to determine if there is at least some acceptance of a proposed budget.

Public Engagement Matters: The city will take a two pronged approach to getting input from the public. Phase 1 will include online engagement opportunities through the use of the city’s two main online engagement tools – Mindmixer and Insight Burlington. Phase 2 will include a face-to-face opportunity for the public to learn more about the proposed Capital and Operating Budgets and provide their feedback in advance of Committee’s budget review process. The results of all public engagement will be reported back to Council in advance of the budget review process.

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. It’s the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn’t do the spending.

Financial sustainability is said to be the key strategic priority. The budget will continue to face rising pressure from infrastructure renewal costs, limited revenue growth, and completion of strategic plan initiatives representing visions to meet community needs. These factors ultimately impact property taxes and reserve fund balances to maintain existing service levels and quality of life.

Hamilton city council set their 2017 budget increase target at 2% with one member of that Council asking that it not be higher than 1.8%


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City looks for feedback from its citizen panel on where budget cuts can be made. They are going in the right direction.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

September 13, 2016



The finance department has crafted a budget and the bureaucrats are hoping it is passed and that they get the funds they feel they need to do their work.

One one wonders however if there isn’t a finance department that produces numbers and then a marketing department that goes out and sells the budget to the public.

Transparency and accountability were thought to mean that the bureaucrats “involve” the public and not work at trying to sell them a new “whiter than white” laundry detergent.


Taxpayers reviewing a budget – they got explanations but not much in the way of impact on the budget.

Burlington’s recent practice has been to create a budget based on input from each of the departments and once they have satisfied themselves that it works – they then hold public meetings and ask what the public thinks – but rarely, if ever, does the budget get changed.

Part of the responsibility for this is a public that isn’t prepared to do its part of the job.

There was a budget a number of years ago that was ready to go to a public meeting – and it snowed, heavy snow and the turn out was a miserable two people.  There were two additional people who had run for public office in the previous election – it was a sort of continued training for the job they wanted.

Budget public meeting - empty hall

Participants at a public budget meeting.

Budget public parent on stairs at ice rink

Residents at the hockey arena less than 50 yards away from the room the budget was being reviewed in.

Everyone thought no one showed up because of the weather – which seemed to be a reasonable conclusion.  However, right next door in the skating rink part of the Mainway Recreation Centre there were a couple of hundred parents taking in a hockey game their children were playing – weather didn’t keep them away.

What was evident was that the city budget had close to zero mind share.  Is it a matter that they just don’t care?  Check out the vigorous debate on the bike lanes that have been added to New Street and tell me that we have a public that doesn’t get passionate about issues.

What the city administration has failed to do is engage its citizens.  It is not an easy task – but watch how many people show up for the Remembrance Day parade- the crowd over flows into Brant Street.

Count the number of people who take part in the annual Terry Fox run and ask yourself why a group of citizens worked their buns off to have a monument to Terry Fox erected on a part of the city he travelled through 35 years ago.  Note too that the group experienced considerable difficulty with city hall in getting all the paper work done.

Terry Fox monument renderingThere is a missing link in the relationship between the citizens and the civil servants who are hired to run the city.  Any retailer learns very quickly to pay attention to what their customers want – city hall staff don’t appear to have picked up that same frame of mind.

This problem has plagued Burlington for some time.  In 2010 then Mayor Cam Jackson commissioned a report written by the late John Boich and former Mayor Walter Mulkewich.  They gave their report the title Shape Burlington.  Several of the senior people at city hall took exception to the findings of the report which was basically to say that city hall wasn’t listening.

Click on the blue line below – the full report is on there for anyone who wants to read the document – it is as relevant today as it was the day it was released.

Shape Burlington Report.
I would wager a good lunch that the current city manager has not read that report and that the Mayor doesn’t have copies in his office that he hands out to people.  At the time city council voted unanimously to adopt the report.

There have been some positive steps.  The city now has a panel of people who respond to surveys the city does about once a month.  The software used for the Insight Burlington surveys is excellent   Hard to tell yet if they respond to the data they get – but they are at least asking good questions.

It would be interesting to do an analysis of the questions asked; the answers given and how the city absorbed what they learned.  Given the current relationship between the Gazette and the senior levels of city hall don’t expect us to get any answers for you on that issue.

The Insight Burlington panel should be much larger than it is.  There are a number of people who have asked to be placed on the survey – but not everyone fits the model the city has.

It is vital that there be an appropriate balance in the makeup of the panel – so if there are enough people who are male, over 65 with a college education and own their home and that definition happens to describe you – that are going to decline your application.

insight-burlington-logoBut – don’t let anything deter you – if you are interested – click on the link – and give it a shot.  The city really needs people who are prepared to answer  the survey – they send out about one a month – they are usually quite short.

If you want to see if your demographics is needed for the Insight Burlington panel click on the link

In the most recent Insight Burlington survey they set out how much of a taxpayers money gets used for various services assuming a property is assessed at $417,645. The city asked which services should be cut back and by how much. They provided plenty of room for detailed responses.
It will be interesting to see what the panel participants had to say.



The chart above shows where the City allocates the revenue it receives from property taxes to the major categories of services it provides to residents (based on an average home assessed at $417,645).

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Council will begin to figure out how much of your money they want - not much you can do about it.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

September 8, 2016


City council will return to meeting in the council camber – and in the very near future – they will begin to look at the budgets they have to put in place for the 2016/17 fiscal year.

The numbers available at this point in time don’t look very encouraging.


Human Resources costs are up 2.8% primarily due to increases to union and non‐union compensation.
Operating/Minor Capital Equip. The 0.6% increase is primarily due to higher electricity rates and increased costs for parts and equipment. These increases are partially offset by lower expenses on general office equipment.

Purchased Services Decrease of 0.9% is attributable to lower external service requirements. These savings are partially offset by higher computer, software and vendor hosted solutions as well as increased snow removal expenses.

Corp. Expenditures/Provisions Increase of 6.7% is mostly due to the infrastructure renewal levy and debt charges incurred for the accelerated renewal program. Additionally debt charges for the Joseph Brant Hospital are offset from the reserve fund (offset by recovery in General Revenues & Recoveries).

 Controllable Revenues are down 0.6% due to realignment of Transit Fare revenue to be in line with actual receipts, which is is partially offset by improved revenues in other services.

General Revenues & Recoveries The increase of 4.2% in General Revenues & Recoveries is mostly due to increase in Hydro dividend and Federal Grants, in addition to a recovery for debt charges from Joseph Brant Hospital reserve fund.

Business Cases The 2016 Proposed Budget includes 16 City business cases totaling $438K. They include proposals to address climate change (stormwater water drainage), enhanced bylaw enforcement, community investment and reduced seniors’ transit fare.

Additionally there are two business cases proposed by the Burlington Performing Arts Centre totaling $188K for community engagement and enhanced customer service.

A graphic of the spending shows where the city feels they need to spend your dollars.


Infrastructure, salaries & wages and tucking money into the reserve funds are where additional funds are needed.

Increases in the 4% plus range are hard to swallow when inflation is running at less than 2%

There are going to be some interesting discussions around the council table in the months ahead.

The steps staff and council will take to get a budget passed is as follows:

  • Capital Budget Overview November 21, 2016
  • Capital Council Information Session November 24, 2016
  • Public Engagement July – November 2016
  • Capital Budget Review December 8, 2016
  • Operating Budget Overview December 8, 2016
  • Operating Council Information Session December 15, 2016
  • Council Capital Budget Approval December 19, 2016
  • Operating Budget Review January 19, 2017
  • Council Operating Budget Approval January 23, 2017getting new - yellow
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Gearing up for the 2017 budget - city hall wants to hear what you think.

Budget 2017 ICON  aaBy Pepper Parr

July 27th, 2016


Well – they know how to put a damper on a vacation – don’t they?

The city wants to know what you think about the two budgets they are preparing. The Capital budget which covers the cost of the things they build and repair and the Operating budget which covers the day to day expenses for all the departments.

The average taxpayer might want to pass along the following words: “Less would be better.”


In election years public budget meting attendance is pretty good. Candidates for office show up while everyone goes through a workbook the city prepares on what they plan on doing. Rarely do the comments made at the public meetings make into into the budget. For the most part they are a public relations exercise.

Burlington’s Finance department is exceptionally good at pulling in the numbers from the different departments and then crunching those numbers and turning them over to the Leadership Team that works at cutting where they think they can cut.

“The budget is your tax dollars,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “It is the basis for all our city services and everyone should have the opportunity to review and provide comment before the budget is approved.”

The 2017 capital and operating budgets are in the early stages of development. They are expected to go to City Council for approval in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively.

Lori Jivan, co-ordinator, budget and policy, “… encourages more people to learn about the budget and provide feedback”. “We hope to do this by surveying the residents to better understand the ways they would like to become involved in the budget process.”

A short survey is available at, or through Insight Burlington and Let’s Talk Burlington until Aug. 12, 2016.

The rub for those people who follow the budget setting process is that the budget is basically determined and all but cast in stone by the time the city holds the Public Information meetings.


Lori Jivan, co-ordinator, budget and policy, standing, explaining a piece of information in the handbook that was prepared for the meeting

Any changes made to a budget get done at the Standing Committee level at which people can delegate but they aren’t allowed to ask questions of Council members

The city does have a Committee of the whole where the rules are more relaxed and there is a much more open flow of information.

If Burlington is serious about getting input from the taxpayers then hold the meetings at which the public can comment before the budgets get to the Standing Committee level.

This is one of those things the Mayor could actually show some leadership on.

The early projections for the 2016-2017 budget nudge the 4% level.

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The proposed 2016/17 budget is likely to get a bumpy ride at city hall when it gets debated.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 26th, 2016



Canadians find it rude to talk about money – and those with a lot of it take offence when you ask just how much they have.

For the rest of us – knowing what we are going to have to shell out in the months ahead is of both interest and concern.

Burlington has a Finance department that is seen as the best in the city. It pulls together the numbers and lays it all out and is very good about making the information available.

We are sometime away from actually striking a budget for 2017/18 but the documents that lead up to that happening have for the most part been put together.

Set out below is a chart the Finance people call their Program Source summary – which means how much money each of the program areas the city operate is going to require.

Some detail, provided by the city is set out beneath the chart.

Budget breakout - early

The amount the city spent in 2015/16 in each of their program areas and what they propose to spend in 2016/17

 Human Resources costs are up 2.8% primarily due to increases to union and non‐union compensation.

Operating/Minor Capital Equip. The 0.6% increase is primarily due to higher electricity rates and increased costs for parts and equipment. These increases are partially offset by lower expenses on general office equipment.

Purchased Services Decrease of 0.9% is attributable to lower external service requirements. These savings are partially offset by higher computer, software and vendor hosted solutions as well as increased snow removal expenses.

Corp. Expenditures/Provisions Increase of 6.7% is mostly due to the infrastructure renewal levy and debt charges incurred for the accelerated renewal program. Additionally debt charges for the Joseph Brant Hospital are offset from the reserve fund (offset by recovery in General Revenues & Recoveries).

Controllable Revenues Controllable Revenues are down 0.6% due to realignment of Transit Fare revenue to be in line with actual receipts, which is partially offset by improved revenues in other services.

General Revenues & Recoveries The increase of 4.2% in General Revenues & Recoveries is mostly due to increase in Hydro dividend and Federal Grants, in addition to a recovery for debt charges from Joseph Brant Hospital reserve fund.

James Ridge

City manager James Ridge is guiding his team in producing the first budget that is all his – the last budget had major development done before Ridge took up his position. He gets all the credit or the blame for this one.

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 and 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 determine the spending.

Seeing those number in a slightly different way we see what the spending increase is year over year.  From 2015/16 to 2016/17 the increase will be 4.89%  Well over inflation.

BUDGET 2015 - 2016 comparison

The 2015/16 budget on the left, what is going to be spent to arrive at the proposed 2016/17 budget.

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