Council unable to agree on a budget for 2022 - returning next Thursday to have another go at it

By Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2021



Members of City Council met for two very full days and were expected to adjourn yesterday with a recommendation that would go to a Council meeting on the 14th at which the 2022 budget would be cast in stone.

It didn’t work out that way.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward during the 2022 budget debates.

When the Standing committee recessed yesterday, Thursday, they were able to whittle the Staff proposed tax increase down from 5.45% to 4.95% which wasn’t what they Mayor had in mind.

Mayor Meed Ward wanted a lower number and she wanted council to agree on a number.  The seven members of Councillors were not able to agree on that – worse they were not able to agree on what the recommendation would be.

In order for a recommendation to go to Council there had to be a majority of Councillors voting for it.

The four votes just weren’t there.

Council was stuck – unable to recommend a budget that Council could approve.

Budget Chair Rory Nisan

They figured out a way to recess the budget meeting and return on Thursday December 9th, hoping by that point they would have found the four votes needed to send a recommended budget to Council.  At the close of the meeting – there were just three votes for sending a recommendation to Council.

In Burlington all the heavy debates take place at Standing Committees where they do not make decisions – they make recommendations which are sent to Council where the decision is made.

When things get messy at Standing Committee  meetings they get procedural with amendments, points of order, points of personal privilege and challenges to the Chair.

In a follow up story we will tell what took place; what individual council members wanted and didn’t want and how the Mayor and the Chair of the budget committee wiggled and squirmed to get the result they wanted.

Rory Nisan, Ward 3 Councillor and Chair of the Budget explained his position: “As Chair of the Budget Committee I want to save the budget”.

Several members of Council didn’t think that was his job.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 comments to Council unable to agree on a budget for 2022 – returning next Thursday to have another go at it

  • Tom Muir

    I worked for the Fed for decades and we had a simple straightforward way to meet budget reduction goals, if they really mattered. State what the reduction amounts or percentage targets are, and then just tell the managers that they have to meet that target – no argument, let them decide what goes.

    This way always worked. Just give the orders.

    And what is Rory supposed to do as Chair? Try to rule the unruly roost arguing about relative peanuts that are really meaningless quibbling?

    One half of one percent is all that has been maybe cut in this story, which is measurement and rounding error, and padding, not worthy of any respect at all if Council is serious.

    Rory should make an estimate of what percent is wanted and then cut or indefinitely defer what is needed by priority of necessity right now.

    Sharman’s want in the Gazette the other day is a good place to go – transit is a red account hole with no justifying business plan relevant to Burlington, and no near future of necessity to spend.

    There are only 2 routes that attract riders. I remember Councilor Sharman writing quite a piece for Council on this Transit service a few years ago. Dig it out and look again.

    • Philip Waggett

      Tom, your point about meeting budget targets within departments is well taken; the department managers are best positioned to make the decisions for their departments based on a strict budgetary guideline. But as Meed Ward earlier admitted, the current budget reflects “a wish list”–an admission that no real budgeting was done.

  • James

    “Wiggled and squirmed” is putting it mildly. Rules be damned, Councillor Nisan seemed to develop a God complex and snapped back in a passive aggressive manner at anyone who dare challenge his authority as Chair, or dare question the will of the Mayor. The final two hours of yesterday’s meeting should be mandatory viewing for every voter heading into next year’s election. Those two hours very much highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each of our elected officials, those who deserve re-election and those who do not. While all other Councillors have developed a spine and thoughts of their own (wise or not), Nisan seems quite comfortable nestled safely in the Mayor’s back pocket.