City hall is thinking 2.3% as a tax increase. Meed Ward likes 1.85% – this debate has just begun – there is much more to it than this.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON January 15, 2013   This is the time of year when your council members gather around the table they call the horse shoe and figure out how much of your money they need to run the city.

This Council committed themselves to a 10% increase during their four-year mandate.  Staff has come forward with a budget that calls for 2.3% this year – but that is just for starters.

Because taxes and elections go hand in hand Councillor Meed Ward let it be known that she kind of liked a 1.85%increase.

City Manager Jeff Fielding explained to the Council he serves that he was hoping the city would accept the 2.3% and work with him on what are being referred to as the growth items – that is things people want money spent on that are growth items.

Sound of Music will be coming to the trough asking for more money to grow their event.  The rules at city hall are in the process of changing and anyone, who wants additional money or new money, has to make a Business Case that gets reviewed by the city’s Executive Budget Committee (EBC) but not necessarily recommended by that committee.

Fielding wants Council to make these decisions.  He wants his people to look at the case, but not make it something city staff is advocating.

With a Staff recommendation attached to an additional expense, council members can point to staff and say ‘this was their idea’.  Fielding is the kind of city manager, who once said to this council: “Do your jobs” and he expects to keep their feet to the flames.

If there are tax increases it will be because city council decided to spend money – the buck stops right in front of the council members.  That will make for some squeamishness on the part of those council members who are, how do we put this, “at risk” of losing their council seats.

The city has just begun the budget debate process.  There is one critical date for the public and that is a Public Meeting to take place January 30th at the Burlington Art Centre at 7:00 pm.

One does have to ask: Why are these events always downtown?  Why do the people in the Orchard or the newly opened Alton Village, never mind Headon or the other communities well north of the QEW have to trudge downtown every time.  Admittedly, there isn’t much in the way of public space – the schools aren’t open in the evenings but surely there is a high school that has a gym that isn’t being used one night.  For those of you in Wards 3 and 6 – bang away at your council member.  Not at all sure why Councillor Craven doesn’t create a City Hall West (would he like to call it the West Wing?) and have the number crunchers trot out to Ward 1 and tell the budget story.

There is a lot more to the 2013 Budget – the binders for the Capital Budget and the Operational Budget were made available – one of the them is a couple of inches thick – need some time to pour through the numbers.

The city however doesn’t rely on staff to ensure that they don’t run out of cash.  At the end of the Budget and Corporate Affairs Committee meeting council slid into full Council mode and passed a quickie “interim tax levy by-law” allowing them to send out a tax bill before the 2013 Budget is approved.

Wouldn’t the private sector love to be able to do something like that.



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