Much patting on the back as Council approves the operating budget for 2011. We are in a financial holding pattern.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – It went down pretty quickly. After 18 hours of committee meetings city council passed the operating budget in pretty quick order and after thanking themselves and anyone else they could name it came to a recorded vote with Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven voting against the budget.

Councillors Taylor and Dennison were delighted to vote for a budget that they truly believed in even though both men said they realized it was a “holding budget” in place until the Strategic Plan for the city was determined.

Taylor said this was just the fourth budget he has voted for in the 12 budgets that have come before him.

Blair Lancaster said she wished the strategic Plan had been done first so that the budget could be aligned with the Strategic Plan but she too realized that a budget had to be struck this month.

Paul Sharman who is responsible for the move to come in with a much lower budget than last year said he saw this budget as an opportunity to show voters that we took them seriously when they told us on their doorsteps that the 45 and 5% increases each year of the last term of council was too much.

Sharman said the reserves look good. The debt load is pretty good. He was satisfied and believes that while 1% will be hard to do again – he didn’t think we will see the 4% and 5% numbers for awhile.

Marianne Meed Ward said no one got everything they wanted but everyone got something and described it as a transitional budget with continued fiscal restraint in the years ahead.

Mayor Goldring thanked the Executive Budget Committee meeting for the 90 hours they put in on the budget and then also thanked Councillor Sharman for the work he did in leading the Budget and Community Services Committee saying that your tax meetings were easier than mine” referring to the time when Goldring as a Councillor chaired the committee.

Goldring pointed out that the less than 1%` increase was the lowest in ten years with no substantive changes in the operation of the city. “We bought some time” said the Mayor. And for that he can thank a couple of lucky breaks that resulted in a $9.3 million surplus that Council had to play with.

Goldring did have an easier time than Sharman and also brought in budgets that were in the 4% and 5% range – more than the voters were prepared to swallow in 2011.

Councillor Craven didn’t smile very much during the council meeting as he voted against he budget.

Councillor Craven didn’t smile very much during the council meeting as he voted against he budget.

Odd man out on this budget was Councillor Craven who said he was shocked that staff had delayed hiring people which resulted in the $3 million saved as a result of “gapping”.

“Our job is not to find the lowest possible tax increase but to find the right tax level. “This budget he claimed does not align our resources with our needs and we are millions of dollars short in meeting the expectations of the community.”

Craven has disagreed with his fellow Councillors on a number of points. He thought it “shocking” that the city is going to open a new fire station without all the full time staff needed. Council decided to continue using overtime work to cover the requirement making fire Chief Shayne Mintz’s job that much more difficult.

“At a time when we want better communication with our Citizens” declared Craven “we have reduced the number of City Talk pages we are going to publish. City Talk is a publication that is inserted into a newspaper and posted to the city’s web site. It tells what Council members are doing and updates citizens on want the city is doing in the way of road closures and repairs.

Other than finally paying the Councillors the increase they had deferred for a number of years there were no changes to the operating budget. Mead Ward wanted $25,000 added to the budget for WiFi service at all the city’s facilities. When it became evident that there wasn’t support for the idea Mead Ward withdrew the request.


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