Council needs to take responsibility for the tax levels it sets and not use 'funny ' numbers to disguise the real tax hit

By Pepper Parr

October 25th, 2021



The cat is out of the bag.


Financial people are expected to put forward a budget asking for a 5.45% increase over last year.

That didn’t come as a big surprise.

In the media release from city hall they explained that “This represents a 5.45% increase to the City’s portion of the tax bill.”

The statement is totally true.

In the beginning she was all about transparency and accountability. Something changed.

The media release also said: “When combined with the estimated regional and education tax levies, the overall projected tax increase for a Burlington homeowner in 2022 is 3.18% or $24.76 per $100,000 of assessment. For example, homeowners with a home assessed at $500,000 would pay an additional $123.80 per year or $2.38 per week.

That statement is totally true as well.  The point that never gets made is this:  The city collects taxes for the education sector and the Regional government but has absolutely no impact on the amount taxes levied by the Boards of Education and a minimal impact on the Regional taxes levied.  Burlington has just 7 of the 24 votes at the Regional level.

The combined tax level tends to make the Burlington 5.45 % look better, the reality is that the city is taxing its citizens at a level well above inflation.  Two percent increases are not going to be seen for a long time.

Citizens looking over a budget document that they have next to no chance of changing. Better that they be given a piece of cake.

As for the public having any impact – the numbers are all but cast in stone well before the public gets to see them.  For Mayor Meed Ward to say she wants the public to “ assist City Council in the budget process” and “to share their input and tell us what services are important to them.”

To what end?  Adding insult to injury this Mayor does not appear to be doing anything to find ways to let tax payers meet in a live setting and express their views.  She would rather have you “join in the conversation at the November 22 virtual town hall that she will be hosting.

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

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6 comments to Council needs to take responsibility for the tax levels it sets and not use ‘funny ‘ numbers to disguise the real tax hit

  • Bob

    We should raise taxes higher, I enjoy watching the rainbow crosswalks can we please paint all crosswalks with rainbows ? As a vegan trans I feel at home when I see a city embrace myself

  • Cathy

    Lol. The numbers aren’t cast in stone. This is a staff wish list which council will review and vote on.

    The city manager has metaphorically put a flaming bag of excrement on the doorstep for council to stamp out. City managers are usually savvy enough to know not to bring in a huge budget increase in an election year. Burlington’s city manager is either clueless or doesn’t care.

    Doubtful council will support this ridiculous ask.

    • Mary Hill

      I very much love and agree with your “bag” analogy. So funny. I also agree with your “election year” comment.

      Maybe the City Manager is clueless, or doesn’t care. Or maybe the City Manager is just showing Council this is what it will cost to have a budget that will afford councilors wish lists to be satisfied. Remember, councilors have previously submitted their wish lists to staff.

      I think it is time for tax paying residents to wake up and accept, just like at Fortinos, or the gas station, or Burlington Hydro, or Enbridge, or any other consumable or service, costs or the same service or product are forever increasing.

      As far as quality is concerned you only get what you pay for.

    • Tom Muir

      I saw the Mayor on CHCH TV this morning and the budget was covered. She said 5.45% is a wish list, is too much, and will not be approved. A wish list is what staff and Joan Ford, who I trust, think is warranted. It’s all in the details of rising costs of building and operating, but some is optional for sure. Want a first class City? – you have to pay, but no complaints without knowing what and why in concrete terms.

      However, this decision-making will take place over the next 2 months is what I think I heard her say. So get to it.

      I suggest you start with the Transit part of the capital budget. This is being impacted greatly by bus purchase DCs that are deemed benefits to existing residents because of the Provinces Growth Plan and the resulting Integrated Transit Plan that the City is pushing through.

      This Plan is said by them to be needed to meet the travel demands of another 500,000 people in the Region, and the travel modal splits that are being pushed to enable and facilitate this Growth Plan.

      More details on this later.

  • Bruce Leigh

    It’s abundantly clear thecf feeling of most residents is “don’t raise my property taxes and don’t cut services”. That is an impossible task for Council.

    As the author rightly points out numbers can be used or spun to suit one’s argument or position. Yes, council by using the Region/Education levy I’m the expressing the overall tax increase as only 3.18% is taking advantage of the relatively small portion of taxation it does not control to make its numbers look better. That is fair game. That’s what any politician would do.

    The author refers to the proposed tax increase of 5.45% as being well in excess of the annual rate of inflation. But the rate of inflation is a number which takes into account the change in prices of a very wide variety of goods and services. Twelve months ago the price of gas at the pumps was 99.30 cents per litter. Today gasoline is at 147.9 cents per litre. Almost a 50% increase in 12 months. That’s a bit above the rate of inflation currently at 4.40%.

    Our property taxes have been kept artificially low by cuts to services provided, e.g. leaf pick up used to be twice in the fall, now only one time.

    Do we want Burlington to be a Rolls Royce place to live or more like a Ford Focus or somewhere in between. How much we pay in taxes determines what we can afford.

    • Tom Muir

      Good comment Bruce.

      This spinning of the tax increase is a perennial event. I and others have pointed this out for many years, even knowing that it’s a fruitless task.

      The spin is partially intended to deflect the concerns about the doubling time of the taxes. And partially to deflect some of the resident complaints that are also perennial, and don’t seem to be sustained for long.

      This short attention span needs to change, as persistent interest and complaint/concern are what needs to happen if residents will ever get to the bottom of the roots of the increases and combat the politicians’ spin.

      If the concern is really genuine to people then the budget documents and public process need to be studied to see details of what went up, where, how much, who gains, and why. Also needing a look is what services were cut and any savings had. I think Councilor Sharman points things out in these concrete cost/finance terms, but he still has a voting record that approves such increases. I think he sees this as a practical and partly unavoidable decision. At least he does this openly.

      I would hazard that the general rate of inflation, tax increases that will be needed to pay off the big deficits holes due to COVID, and the cost of the development plans being imposed on us by Mr. Fords’ Growth Plan, have nowhere to go but up.

      And finally, Bruce asks whether we want the Rolls or the Ford Focus place to live. I wonder how the politicians can call Burlington the best place to live in Canada while failing to explain what the costs will be and how the cheap route can lead to the best place?

      The only way to judge really is for individuals to map what is spent, to the cost source, to who benefits, and then to how this serves residents to get to the best place.

      We could ask for this mapping from the City, although I think some such information is at least partly provided.