Great organization - funding it is reasonable - city council seems to want to throw money at them - Lousy policy management

By Pepper Parr

March 17th, 2024


Part 1 of a 3 part series on how BurlingtonGreen is probably going to be on the public payroll for a long time.

BurlingtonGreen went to Council asking for $50,000 to cover the cost of services they have been providing the city for some time.

The Staff report suggested:

Approve one time funding for 2024 in the maximum amount of $50,000 from the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund as a fee for services provided by BurlingtonGreen summarized in environment and energy report EICS-01-24; and

Direct the Executive Director of Environment, Infrastructure and Community Services to execute a Memorandum of Understanding between the City and BurlingtonGreen outlining the services to be provided in 2024, including performance measures in a form satisfactory to the Executive Director of Legal Services and Corporation Counsel; and

Consider an ongoing fee for services approach with BurlingtonGreen in the amount of $50,000 per calendar year during the Mayor’s 2025 budget process.

Before the meeting was over Council was getting close to recommending $70,000 and giving the organization that amount every year as part of the Mayor’s 2025 budget.

Not everyone was on board for this – but the sentiment was that BurlingtonGreen was an organization that should be given ongoing financial support.

Here is how the debate went:

Chair Lisa Kearns: We’re now moving on to BurlingtonGreen fee for service item.

Lynn Robichaud, Manager of Environmental Sustainability.

Lynn Robichaux, Manager of Environmental Sustainability, author of the report was both brief and direct saying:  “We’re very pleased to present this report today, I think Jamie summed up a lot of the work that they’re doing in the community supporting our environmental objectives. I’ll keep this short, I think it’s time the city increased their financial support for BurlingtonGreen recognizing all the positive benefits they bring to the community. I’ll leave it at that.”

Mayor Meed Ward responded: “Thank you. Short, sweet, it’s awesome. To the point. Did we hear you correctly yesterday – the actual work  they do is closer to $70,000 annually, and that they are absorbing the full amount if we don’t approve this right now? What effectively is the city work that we’ve asked them to do by 2024 if the amount is $50, 000?”

Lynn Robichaud:  ” that’s correct. I think we were trying to be cognizant of the budget constraints that council has been dealing with. But $70,000 is probably what BurlingtonGreen would like to see funding support.”

Mayor: Okay, “:So we could fix that today if we wanted?”

The Mayor then asks  Lori Jivani, (Member of finance team) if there is  any other reserve like an environmental initiatives reserve or some other thing that could be deployed for the one time amount. “We can  consider the ongoing when we get to budget discussions later in the fall.

Lori  Jivani: “We do have a green initiatives reserve fund, that might be an option. As an alternative, it would allow for  both green infrastructure as well as green programming. So I can see this on a one time basis being used for that with consideration then again, if you’d like to make this a more permanent program.”

Mayor:  “Just to follow can you tell us what the balance?”

Lori Jivani: “It is in today’s package, under the Financial Status Report. The balance is $548,000.”

Meed Ward announces that she will have an amendment to the Staff recommendation..

Bentivegna: That $50,000 becomes another $200,000 that we’re committing to long term.

Counsellor Bentivegna: “After rereading the report and hearing the delegation yesterday I appreciate everything  BurlingtonGreen does. But we didn’t discuss this ask from 2024 to 2027; We didn’t get into that conversation. That $50,000 becomes another $200,000 that we’re committing to long term – can you walk me through that. Which is March? Let’s say it’s going to be half the year? And are we committing to the 50,000 from 2024 to 2027 as well if we approve this report?”

Jivani: “ We are recommending the funding for 2024. And for consideration for the ongoing funding to the mayor’s budget in 2025.”

Lisa Kearns, who is chairing the meeting. “I was concerned yesterday, when I heard from the delegate  that an offset of lease cost for their facility, which is a city owned facility, would be considered a precedent. My bigger concern is creating a precedent where we are engaging in fees for service with volunteer groups.

“Safestreets, Halton does a lot of work. We don’t give them funding. There’s a lot of other community culture groups that do a lot of volunteer work that we don’t give funding to them.   And I’m just wondering if within the framework of agencies, boards and commissions, where do we see an organization like this appropriately landing from a governance model?”

Magi: “ I think that we see that there are some differentiations, in terms of the services that BurlingtonGreen is providing, they provided it last year through the Recreation Community Development Fund, and they were quite specific in terms of the program areas and I guess it’s a question about  whether we forego that lease payment and reduce the fee for the services or just keep it clean and have them pay the lease.”

Kearns: “ My second question is –  I went through the appendix, which is the BurlingtonGreen new proposal around services for fee. And it doesn’t look like a proper contract with KPIs or metrics or even a scope of work. I’m wondering if there’s an opportunity that we have to bring back better clarity for what we’re actually purchasing, whether it’s by hours or by event, or by, you know, community engagement, number of people, anything to that effect, I think we have a huge theme around KPIs happening at the city right now. And I’m wondering how we leverage that into contracts with our delivery of service partners?”

Councillor Sherman moves the report. Questions are asked;

Councillor Bentivegna says: “ I’ll be honest.  I’m starting to see a little trend here that I’m not comfortable with.   What concerns me here is we’re doing this pre budget. And when the mayor decides what she wants to put her budget  – this is already in the system. And it gets lost. I’m going to keep bringing this up  – I’m going to back off until I get more information on this  – I will not support this.”

Meed Ward: I’ll try an amendment – and see where it goes.”

Mayor: “I’ll try an amendment – and see where it goes.  Amend the amount in 2024, as well as the potential in the 2025 budget to $ 70,000.  So the 2024 amount at $70,000.  I certainly understand the Bentivegna concern and hesitation with the sort of lock and load or front loading the budget, before you have a chance to see it in context, This kind of test the water and see if  Council has an appetite for this, which greatly helps me when I put together the budget.

Councillor Sharman: “I’m going to sound a little contrarian.”

Councillor Sharman: “I’m going to sound a little contrarian. We don’t give grants to charitable organizations. I appreciate that we have a high regard for BurlingtonGreen and we have some sympathy and I sense that we’re inclined to find a way to fund them where we wouldn’t fund most people, especially grant charities. And I find that a little disturbing, it seems somewhat hypocritical.

“The other thing is when it comes to us buying services, engineering, road surfacing, for example, we have contracts – but here we are wanting to give some money to BurlingtonGreen without measurements or metrics. And by the way we have not gone through the contracting process?  The City Manager reminded me earlier about buying practices. Would we be willing to buy services from other not for profits under some sort of purchasing regime?  I’m unlikely to support going for more right now.  I do want to see some feedback from staff about how we’re going to bring order to this in the context of everything else. I won’t be supporting this.”

Councillor Stolte: “Report in general, but specifically to the amendment that I will 1,000% being supportive. When we balance all of the priorities across the city I look at the  $35,000, plus on 30 minutes of firework display, I know that’s a cultural activity. I know it’s fun, and it’s wonderful for the community. But if we’re happy to spend $35,000, plus for 30 minutes of fireworks, I really don’t struggle with the idea of spending twice that for long lasting environmental benefits that are year round, and that benefit all of the Burlington community and into the future. So I see this as a small spend,  I would like to see it move forward in the mayor’s budget but in a more organized way. I will support this amendment at this time.”

City Manager: “ We do allow in our procurement bylaw where services are unique.

City Manager: “ We do allow in our procurement bylaw where services are unique. They really are exclusive and we  have a history here; a one year track record of having this program delivered through community development funding. I do think it’s a bit unique, but I leave it to council to make the determination.”

Galbraith: “I’m happy to support this. In listening to the delegate yesterday, it seems that much of their time is spent hustling other levels of government just to get a shoestring budget, this is not a lot of money for the amount of work they do.

“Everything can’t wait until budget time. It just unrealistic to think that it can. We have the stabilization reserve fund for opportunities like this and to keep other organizations afloat until the next budget cycle. So I really don’t have an issue with that. And I think this money will be well spent on good work done.”

Kearns: “I would encourage staff to come back with an option around waiving the lease fee for the pumphouse, because it’s being used as a city service as opposed to a not for profit. They’re not  running private workshops, they’re not collecting revenue. I would encourage you to find more funding to help offset their costs. If anyone is amenable to $50,000, from the Green Initiative Fund, I would support that. We don’t just fund not for profits, because we don’t give any money to other ones that are equally noble.”

Kearns: “The Clerk asks that separate votes be taken:  one from the funding source and one for the amount. The first vote will be to approve one time funding for 2024 and the maximum amount of $70,000. All those in favour. All those opposed? That does not carry.

“Now we’ll go to approve one time funding for 2024. And the maximum amount of $50,000 from the green initiatives reserve fund for services provided by BurlingtonGreen summarized in Staff report.  Just the change. Okay, so now you have the vote before you: All those in favour?

The vote isn’t taken – there is a question.

Mayors says she is “happy to throw the $12,000 (rent money) into the mix as a grant to their rent as a further amendments. So we will grant them back their $12,000 in, in rent.”

Chair Kearns: Consider an ongoing fee for service approach with BurlingtonGreen in the amount of $50,000 per calendar year

Kearns: “I’m wondering if we want to have that come back for counsel with any type of legal considerations around it at all?”

City Manager: “I would suggest given that, you know, we have counsel that you give us an opportunity to look at that, but I think the intent would be to report back on the potential for a grant in lieu of rent. So I think you should vote on something today. So it gives us direction.”

Kearns: “Okay, but not necessarily be definitive?  Do you want me to refer it take the whole thing to council? We’ll do the $50,000 right now and then we’ll refer the balance to council or do you want us to be more explicit?”

City Manager :I would suggest you be explicit about the amount so the amount is $12,000 in rent; report back on the exact amount,  sorry through your chair.”

Kearns: “Ok perfect.  Make it: “Direct the Executive Director of Environment Infrastructure and Community Services to report back on a waiver of the pump house lease cost in the approximate amount of $12,000.”

They took a recess – they return

Kearns: I want to make sure we’ve voted entirely on the first paragraph, the green initiatives. So I’m going to take the first vote on the amendment, which is to approve the one time funding for 2024 in the maximum amount of $50,000 from the green initiatives reserve fund on a fee for services provider with BurlingtonGreen.

Kearns: “All those in favour, All those opposed? Carries – Bentivegna was opposed.

“The next paragraph is to consider an ongoing fee for service approach with BurlingtonGreen in the amount of $50,000 per calendar year during the mayor’s 2025 budget process.

“The last piece is to Direct the Executive Director of Environment, Infrastructure and Community Services to report back to the March 19 2024 Council meeting on options to forego or waive the approximate $12,000 2024 lease payment by Burlington green for the pump house. All in favour?


Sharman: “Just to be clear, I’m completely happy with giving BurlingtonGreen more money. I just want to make sure that we are doing it in the right context within the same set of procedures and policies.”

Kearns: “We have a question from Councillor Sharman: “ I’m back to my charitable donations and grants. When will that be addressed? When this comes back? We don’t do that. Of course, I think we can include that when it comes back to council on the 19th. We are asking – how we treat local boards relative to serving charitable organization grants. We can deal with it as best we can.”

Kearns: “Maybe I can help here –  to waive or amend the approximate $12,000. So maybe we can see a change in the amount.”

Sharman: “ Just leave it with staff.”

Magi: “Just to clarify –  we do have a number of city owned facilities that we have joint venture agreements with – it’s a different type of organization, but it is a city asset. And we’re just allowing a community group to utilize that asset is how I would view that.”

Sharman: “I’m concerned about the precedent we are setting in the context of it, it would be inconsistent. We need to make sure we know what we’re doing for everybody. I’ll leave that with you.

“That can come back and council including any requirements for closed session as well.”

Kearns: :Okay, so we’ll vote for the report back  – no report back.  All those in favour.

“That carries.  So now we will vote on the main motion as amended, which is everything. On the main motion as amended. So a mover please.

Councillor Stolte: “Just very briefly, one of the reasons I am supportive of this and I do understand your concerns Councillor Sharman. I think they’re quite valid. And we have to think about them.”

Mayor:  “I see BurlingtonGreen as delivering services that that we’ve asked them to do –  like the Clean up Green up.”

Mayor:  “I see BurlingtonGreen as delivering services that that we’ve asked them to do –  like the Clean up Green up, which is a very different thing than, say the gun club, not to pick on them.  But they’re in a city facility. And they’re different. I don’t know what the incorporated status is of all our JC’s   I’d be surprised if not one of them was a charitable organization. That’s how I see a  difference between BurlingtonGreen and say a community organization that is organic, that was formed if they’re not incorporated, don’t have a board of directors don’t have legal requirements for reporting and some of those other checks and balances.”

“I see BurlingtonGreen as quite different than any of those groups that do have all of those checks and balances. I think a lot of the services  they provide could not be done – there is absolutely no way the city could deliver the services and programs for less than this. That is why I’m comfortable with it. I’ll leave it there. And I’ll probably put $70,000 in  my budget in 2025.”

Sharman: “Just to be clear, I’m completely happy with giving veterans and BurlingtonGreen more money. I just want to make sure that we are doing it in the right context within the same set of procedures and policies.”

Councillor Stolte: “I totally agree we need to tighten it up and make sure it’s concrete and organized.

Councillor Stolte: “I totally agree we need to tighten it up and make sure it’s concrete and organized. And I totally agree that they’re doing work that we would otherwise be spending a lot more money to do. And it’s valuable work and I fully support this.”

Kearns: “ I can’t move this without making a comment that again, yes, of course, it’s easy to agree that Burlington green is making an impact of their engaging youth. They’re helping to support our environmental and climate initiatives and goals. It’s the administrative piece that is glitchy for me. And the governance piece in the not for profit subsidizing not for profits is not the way that the city should be using its tax generated funds.

Kearns: “It’s the administrative piece that is glitchy for me.

“We need to have the structure tightened, the MOU solidified. And if we’re buying services, then that’s actually a supplier relationship and partnership. It is not subsidizing and not for profit. So that is my piece around the governance and the administration of a pay for use service that should be equitably applied across all of our vendors and our vendor portfolio. So my issue is not at all with BurlingtonGreen, you can plug and play with the name of the organization, we have so many in our community that are doing amazing work and you know, helping to round out the city’s vision and goals and initiatives. But you have to do that in a way that’s structured appropriately for value for money and is aligned with all of our financial bylaws and otherwise, so my issue is not Burlington green. wholeheartedly support Amy the team Gloria kale, everyone you’re doing amazing work. But we have to be mindful of process here and that’s really what this boils down to.”

The Pump House has become a BurlingtonGreen EcoHub.

Kearns: “All in favour on the motion as amended. Opposed?

It carries.

What they do with it at Council on Tuesday is one of those unknowns.  $50,000 once or $70,000 a year forever.  Maybe waive the $12,000 annual rent for the Pump House


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2 comments to Great organization – funding it is reasonable – city council seems to want to throw money at them – Lousy policy management

  • Caren

    This Council is so great at handing out our Tax dollars to everyone. It doesn’t all come from their pockets!

    They don’t mention that Burlington Green got $773,500 in grant money between 2017 and 2023, plus what the City gave them per year.

    We don’t need more items added to our Property Taxes. We need items removed.

  • Joe Gaetan

    In 2023 the Burlington Foundation supported 7 major projects in Burlington to the tune of $523,000, of that $63,463 went to Burlington Green “to develop and implement its organization resiliency”. At one time the writer sat on the board of United Way, part of that role included sitting down with each charity to fully understand their financials asks. BG as of today have not as yet filed their 2023 statement with the CRA. At a minimum and before COB goes ahead with this, they need to have all of the information before making this important decision. Despite the value this and other great charitable organization provide, as stewards of our tax dollars COB has an obligation to be guided by due diligence and not ideology.