Process of setting the 2022 budget begins: early version has increase set at 5.57%

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 5th, 2021



It is that time of year again – setting the budget for 2022 and, from a Council member perspective, keeping an eye on what the budget will do to their re-election prospects.

Expect every member of Council to seek re-election with a maybe not for ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns (who has told one of her supporters that she will not run again) and possibly ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna who may find that the work load is not something he wants to take on for four more years.  However, he has said publicly that he is planning on running again.

In a Staff report that will be discussed at a city Standing Committee meeting Monday July 5th timelines for the 2022 budget are set out.

Council Workshops –Service Presentations 

The budget projections for each of the 38 services the city provides will be reviewed on September 22, 23, 28 & 30, 2021

Budget Overview November 3, 2021

Budget Virtual Town hall November, 2021(TBC)

2022Budget Review & Approval  – November 30 &December 2, 2021

Council –2022 Budget  Approval December 14, 2021

Council Workshop sessions have been scheduled over 4 days to allow the 38 City Services to present overviews of their business plans to Council. Each of the City Services have been grouped into the 8 sessions by themes somewhat aligned to the Strategic Plan.

historical tax increases

With a projection for a tax increase of more than 5% the historical record looks a little dismal.

These workshop presentations will include:

A summary of current financial investment by service

An overview of current service delivery including known financial gaps and service needs

An overview of the asset investment required for service delivery

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

An overview of service goals and objectives

A portion of the presentation on the first day (Session 1) will be set aside to provide an overview of the incremental budget investments including staffing that have been made during this term of Council (2019-2021).

In addition, a portion of the presentation during the last day (Session 8) will include an update on the overall Designing and Evolving Our Organization (DEOO) process.

Reckoning and future direction:

Some of the spending done in the past few years is now going to have to be reckoned with.

This budget is going to be a turning point for the city.  The impact of the Interim Control bylaw that stopped approval of projects for a year (it has extended now to whenever the LPAT hearings resolve the appeals made), the creation of an approved but not yet in force Official Plan and the significant number of high rise tower development applications that are challenging the Planning departments ability to do its work on a timely basis.

assesmenet growth

The growth of properties that go on the tax base is too low – all the development that has people worried about what their city is going to look like does pay some of the bills. Right now those hi-rise towers are holes in the ground.

The success Mayor Meed Ward has had in getting the Urban Growth Boundaries moved well north of the downtown core and getting the province to realize that a bus terminal was not a Major Transit Service Area are wins for which she is not getting the credit she deserves.

The focus on getting high rise housing around the GO stations was aptly described by the Mayor as the creation of the new small cities.  Five years from now there will be a number of new city councillors to accommodate the new wards that will have to be created to accommodate the population growth.

While the fight isn’t over yet the desire on the part of the developers to put up tall buildings in the downtown core, especially in that football shaped piece of property between Old Lakeshore Road and Lakeshore Road, is no longer the slam dunk it looked like when the 2014 city council held its last meeting.

Coping with all these changes brings with it challenges that have to be dealt with – they all show up in a budget that also has to cope with the costs of a pandemic.

Fortunately the province has created funding sources that leave Burlington in pretty good financial shape in terms as to what the pandemic has cost the city.

The cost to the hospitality sector has been brutal and a number of operations in that sector will not survive.  Retail has also taken a hit.

Forecast 2022

It all adds up.

The financial fundamentals for Burlington are pretty good; the leadership on the administrative side has been what was needed to get us through the pandemic.  Going forward city manager Tim Commisso may not want to continue to handle the day to day grind.  He has found his future leadership within the organization and appears to have done a good job of nurturing and developing the administrative talent.

There are a number of senior level retirements coming up – legal and human resources come to mind.  The legal department has had difficulty finding talent with an understanding of the way the municipal sector works – it is a world unto itself.

Treasurer Joan Ford should be given medals for the job she has done.  Along with a superb level of service Ford has grown the talent within the department to ensure that the financial side continues delivering.

Managing the changes the pandemic has brought about has critically impacted on the way citizens who pay attention to what gets done at city hall are able to participate.

multi year simulation

A simulation based on the available data shows hefty tax rates for the last year in the current term of council and for the first three years of the next term of office. Can they be elected on this platform?

Having to go virtual has almost put an end to the kind of delegations citizens would provide.  Not being able to be in the room, actually see all the members of council and react to their body language, facial expressions severally limits genuine participation.

We all pay for the lack of thoughtful response from concerned citizens.

Council at work July 5

This is your city council in a virtual session. There were no delegations at this meeting. The view does not include all the participants.

The Public Board of Education manages to have some of the trustees take part in the meeting by being in the room.  Burlington’s city council is close to being at the point where limited public participation could begin – there has been no signal from the members of council that this might be in the offing.

Life is easier when you don’t have to respond to criticism from someone right in front of you – looking you in the eye,

Kind of convenient for them.

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4 comments to Process of setting the 2022 budget begins: early version has increase set at 5.57%


    We do not want any more tall buildings on Spencer Smith Part (The Jewel of Burlington)
    With that tax increase, tax payers plus city can probably buy The Waterfront Hotel and keep more parkland with a 2 or 3 story Art Building, small Library, coffee shop, etc.

    Not too happy about the HUGH building slated for the football either.
    Anything anyone can do?!!!!!

  • Penny Hersh

    I was watching today’s meeting where the proposed budget was being discussed for 2022. I realize that these are early days and much more needs to be discussed but it was nothing that I didn’t expect.

    At one point Tim Commisso told Council exactly what was happening. He indicated that the time had come to accept the fact that Burlington might need the 5.5% increase to meet the demands of a growing population. More staff is needed to accomplish the basic needs of the residents. More by-law officers for one. Mr Commisso mentioned that 12 new people had been hired in the Planning Department.

    I am thinking that perhaps more will have to be hired to deal with all the development applications etc. that will be coming once the appeals with LPAT are settled.

    Mr. Commisso indicated that in the past Reserve Funds had been used, but that was no longer an option. He also discussed assessments that were not available. He pulled no punches, which was very refreshing to hear.

    Councillor Nissan spoke on how he “felt he could not sell this to the public”. An election year is coming up, a large increase in taxes would not bode well during that timeframe ( my thoughts not his).

    Councillor Sharman indicated that for many years taxes were kept lower than they should have been and the time had come to make things right. He also mentioned the fact that Reserve Funds had been used to keep taxes low. Everything he said made economical sense.

    I have said in the past that you can’t continue to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul”. It will come back to haunt you. No one expected a pandemic that would turn the world upside down for close to 2 years ( and it is not over yet). The purpose of a Reserve Fund is meant to be for emergencies.

    The pandemic has and will continue to have a huge impact on this generation and future ones, let’s not add to this by not paying our fair share of taxes now for the services we need.

    Residents have to realize to have the services we NEED not necessarily WANT comes at a price that WE have to pay for. Something it seems from what was said at today’s meeting we have not been doing.

  • James

    The Mayor talks a lot about affordable housing. How about trying to keep it affordable for those that already live here? These hefty year over year tax hikes are not sustainable for many Burlington residents. Do better! None of us are getting 5%+ annual income adjustments! Think before you spend, and spend only on what positively impacts all Burlington residents, not just whatever Instagram-worthy hot button topic of the day will get you in the news!

  • Penny Hersh

    “The success Mayor Meed Ward has had in getting the Urban Growth Boundaries moved well north of the downtown core and getting the province to realize that a bus terminal was not a Major Transit Service Area are wins for which she is not getting the credit she deserves.”

    I question why this is being considered a SUCCESS? As stated by Gary Scobie, who worked tirelessly in trying to make this happen prior to the last Municipal Election – basically “TOO LITTLE TOO LATE”.

    The time that this could have made a difference was in 2017 when Metrolinx gave Municipalities who were updating their Official Plan the ability to make these changes. The municipalities had a full year until November 2018 to do this. The City and Council at the time knew about this and opted to do nothing. ( For those of you who would question this information you should be aware that it came directly from Metrolinx, and it was proven to be correct).

    ECoB discovered this on its own. At no point in time was this option made public by the city or the previous council.

    ECoB went to Jane McKenna for answers prior to the Municipal Election. Her office looked for answers and her fall newsletter indicated that it would be possible, but not easy at that time, to move the boundaries of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre. Un designating the John Street Bus Terminal would not be an issue. It was only after the election and public outcry did anything start to happen regarding this.

    What could have been easily accomplished (2017-2018) before the election was an opportunity lost.

    I can only think because at that time the previous council did not see that the designation of the John Street bus terminal as a hub and the downtown urban growth centre designation as an issue that could result in over intensification in the downtown core.

    OR did they?

    Remember the spin ” Windows to the Lake”? Don’t hear that anymore do we?