Tax increase thinking would have Burlington as one of the lowest in GTA – council talking 3.4%

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON January 17, 2010  – This time last year Council member Paul Sharman was savaging senior city staff over the data they had provided council and the budget recommendations they had made.  This year Sharman was blowing kisses to Joan Ford, Acting city treasurer.  How things do change.

Has Sharman learned to see things through the lens of a civic council member rather than his private sector corporate lens?  Or has the city`s Executive Budget Committee learned something from the 2011 budget exercise?   Whichever, the projections for the 2012 budget look pretty decent at this early stage but as Councillor rick Craven pointed out, “the comments in the staff report – “There are insufficient financial and human resources to support all existing services, add resources to respond to community growth…”  Craven, who runs a very tight committee meeting made the point that “we are not funding infrastructure needs adequately either.  “We are setting aside half a percentage point of the budget when we need a full 1%. to get our roads where they need to be.”

The city budget team is projecting a tax increase of 3.444%.  They were directed to come back with a budget for 2012 that was between 2% and 3.5%

There isn’t going to be very much that is new in this budget – the exercise is going to be to move as much money as possible into infrastructure and ensure that we have the funds the hospital has asked the city to contribute for the rebuild of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.

Councillor Dennison pointed out that the hospital is still working at drawings for the parking garage and that they have no sought any building permits or prepared for a site plan review.  The Memorandum of Understanding between the hospital and the city is not yet signed but Acting City Manager Kim Phillips believes construction on the garage will get started this year and the city seems prepared to write the cheque for the first $7.5 million.

Lots of kudos for Ford on her draft budget - will everyone be as happy when it comes down to the final determination?

Acting treasurer Ford gave a Council committee an overview of what the budget recommendations were.  Mention of service cutbacks and the elimination of underused facilities was frequent.  But at this point no one has detailed which services might be cut back and there wasn’t any mention from Council members as to which facilities were underused in their wards.

All Boards and commissions were asked t keep their increase requests to below 2%, which for most is close to impossible.  Lots of haggling to be done yet.

Festival looking for an 80% city funding increase.

The surprise for many this morning was the close to last minute request from the Sound of Music festival for a close to 80% increase in the funding they get from the city.  They are asking that the city increase the $52,000 they are currently contributing to $86,000 – which as Councillor Lancaster pointed out is an 80% increase.

It was going to take more than a “spoonful of sugar” to make that medicine go down.  Sound of Music Executive Director Dave Miller had a presentation with lots of pictures and data but the state of the electronics in the Council Chamber are in a pretty sad state of disrepair and he was unable to share his power point presentation with the people in the public gallery.

If the Sound of Music Festival is going to get the increase they want – there is going to have to be a significant change in attitude on the part of this Council.

Miller was asked by Councillor Taylor if the Festival had written a letter asking for the increase.  Apparently they had not.

More on the Sound of Music story in a report to follow and much more once we’ve had a chance to look at the draft budget.


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