The 2020 budget is not going to be the gift that we got in 2019 - the increase in 2020 over 2019 could be as much as 100% MORE.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 1st, 2019



During the federal election we heard members of the Liberal government comment frequently that people want to see something done on climate change but were not prepared to pay that much to bring about a change.

They certainly weren’t prepared to give up the gas guzzling pickup trucks.

The 2020 proposed budget attempts to strike a balance between identifying efficiencies, leveraging non-tax based revenue sources, revising service levels, and continuing to build towards long-term financial sustainability through additional investment in infrastructure renewal.

That’s what comes from the bureaucrats. The politicians have their agenda and for the current council climate change is a big issue – is it THE issue? The Mayor would like to think so but she may not have enough of her council colleagues on side with her.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

Councillor Sharman read a well prepared statement into the record. He said:

1. I love trees and do not want to see them cut down unnecessarily

2. The people of Burlington feel the same way; based on the statistically accurate survey prepared by Forum Research in June 2013 for the City Burlington the evidence is clear:

I. The people of Burlington love trees and do not wish to remove them

II. Many Ward 5 and 6 residents felt there are insufficient trees, so do I

III. People agree that City oversight of the tree canopy is desirable

IV. Two out of three respondents also agreed that “a landowner should be able to remove a healthy tree if it is no longer wanted by the property owner without permission from the city.”

a) The big question in 2013 was and remains, is there a significant tree loss problem?

Staff reported at the time:

A total of 21 tree care companies were contacted. The following are key findings of the

I. In 2012, approximately 1,813 trees were removed by all tree care companies combined.

II. 78% of trees removed were dead, diseased or dying, followed by natural death due to age. 1414 trees

III. 17% of trees were removed due to landscaping modifications (presumably development), poor planting location or damage to property caused by the tree. 308 trees

IV. 5% of removals were a result of home improvements (e.g. additions, decks, etc.) 91 trees

b) What we believe is that the Urban tree canopy is insufficient and at, 15-17% coverage falls short of the 30-40% recommended.

c) What we know today:

Tree Guelph line close up -no name

These trees were on private property.

I. The City is going to cut down about 15,000 Ash Trees on municipal property in 2019. That suggests the number of diseased trees on private property is multiple times greater.

I have heard that it could be in the order of 300,000 trees in the City. Disease is the single biggest cause of canopy loss and will continue to be so for several years to come.

II. Trees on property subject to site plan approval in the development application process do not need to comply with a municipal private tree bylaw.

III. That clear cutting of development sites is known to happen, but it is not known how many.

IV. Roseland has had perhaps 4 applicable tree cutting permits issued under the bylaw

V. The suggested City private tree bylaw will not actually stop trees from being cut down, it is only designed to create a 2nd thought

VI. Trees do not provide significant climate change mitigation. Trees provide us with significant benefits, including carbon sequestration (storage), however, net carbon neutral can be achieved only by reducing dependence on fossil fuels. **

d) What we do not know today:

I. We do not know how many trees are cut down on private property

II. We do not know how many sites are clear cut by developers to avoid site plan control.

III. We do not know if trees are being cutting down unnecessarily*

IV. We do not know how many trees are needed to increase the urban tree canopy to 30 or 40%

V. We do not have a tree inventory of Burlington

VI. We have not identified alternative costed strategies that might be more effective than the Roseland bylaw or a derivative thereof.

e) Conclusions:

GreenUp 2017 tree plant

Will the city create working parties to plant the tens of thousands of trees needed?

• As much as I would like to support a valid and properly justified extended tree protection bylaw, we are not ready to have one because we have no adequate information to suggest we should.

• The data we do have suggests that we need to plant trees, a lot of them. I am told that we need in the order of 300,000 trees to increase the canopy to 40%. In the scheme of things, spending $100,000’s to stop people cutting down a very small number of trees, according to the 2013 research, is not the best use of money.

• I would rather use a carrot than a stick by providing a $250 grant to property owners for every tree they plant on their own property.

• Finally, for now and until we have a properly thought out tree strategy based on real supportable data, I will continue to only support the option to continue the existing Roseland private tree bylaw.

• Let’s plant 10,000 5cm trees a year, that could be 20-30cm in 20 years time, in order to recover the canopy. Of course, we need to make sure they are watered. That will give us the best ROI.

There is a reason for calling Councillor Sharman Dr. Data.

• His after thoughts:

Sharman hand to head

Councillor Sharman: Data. data, data – there is never enough!

o I appreciate that some people think that people who willingly cut trees for their own reasons should be caused to pay for the greater good of the community. Considering that the larger community loss is due to disease and simple old age (78% in 2013, possibly 95% currently re Emerald Ash Borer). It would be more equitable for all home owners to pay a progressive tax to pay for administration and execution of a properly justified and constructed tree strategy.

o Surely, we can figure out another way to get the few people to report that they are cutting trees than charge them in excess of $1000 per tree.

o Surely, we can figure out how to ensure that when trees are cut to facilitate development that the applicant ends up complying with site plan regulations.

o We need to figure out what the real problem is that is being addressed in this discussion?

* Note, we asked the Town of Oakville for data on how many trees were cut down and for what reasons since they introduced their bylaw. Oakville staff were not able to provide the data. The Oakville Green website does not have relevant statistics. City of Burlington staff acknowledge they have no data.

Appleby Village - trees on Pineland

These trees are in ward 5. They will probably have to come down if a high rise residential tower goes up.

** Climate change mitigation impact of trees. There are a wide range of sequestration rates in Canadian urban forests, from 0.2 to 1.2 Mg (megagrams; 1 Mg = tonne) of C per hectare per year. It likely depends on tree species and health of trees. If we planted trees across the whole land mass of Burlington (18,200 ha), it would only sequester around 79,000 tonnes of CO2e. Burlington’s community emissions are currently estimated at 1.2 million tonnes of CO2e.

This is based on using the highest rate of 1.2 tonnes of C per hectare per year (very high). (1 tonne of carbon = 3.67 tonnes of C02e; 3.67 x 1.2 = 4.4 tonnes of CO2e/ha) 4.4 tonnes of CO2e/ha x 18,200 = 79,000 tonnes.

Perhaps, if we replaced buildings, roads and traffic with trees, we wouldn’t have a carbon problem anymore.

Trees provide us with significant benefits, particularly to improve community resilience by providing cooling for the urban area and reducing the urban heat island effect, as well as reducing erosion with flooding events. However, we will only achieve our goal of being a net carbon neutral community by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We will put more emphasis on the benefits of urban forestry in part 2 of the Climate Action Plan (the climate adaptation strategy

Councilor Nisan was less verbose but was clear – “it is about the climate” was the position he took.

The basics of the 2020-2021 budget are:

a proposed base amount of $172,060,655 plus recommended business cases of $1,574,524 for a total proposed net tax levy of $173,635,179.

This net tax levy represents 65.5% of total operating revenues in 2020. The 2020 proposed capital projects are approximately $85.8 million, with a ten-year program of $809.7 million.

The budget review process included:

• A line-by-line review of the base operating budget by the Chief Financial Officer and Service Owners (budget reductions of $1.02 million).

• The Corporate Infrastructure Committee conducted an in-depth review of the 10- year capital program.

• A corporate / strategic review by the Operating Budget Leadership Team. This team is comprised of the City Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Director of Human Resources, Chief Information Officer (rotating member) and the Director of Transit (rotating member).

• A corporate / strategic review by the Capital Budget Leadership Team. This team is comprised of the Executive Director of Environmental, Infrastructure and Community Services, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Roads, Parks and Forestry (rotating member) and the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility (rotating member).

• Alignment to strategic objectives and review of operating business cases.

Joan Ford, the city's Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

Joan Ford, the city’s Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

The recommendation?
Receive and file the proposed 2020 budget book; and Direct staff to present the recommendations, that is what is going to occupy much of the months of November and December.

The city Finance department hopes to have this budget wrapped up before the end of the year. That is probably not something you want to be very much money on.

An added note.  The Director of Human Resources has a report suggesting to Council that they might want to increase what they are paying the non-union staff – Burlington is no longer competitive and we are not getting the staffing quality we need.

How much higher will the 2020 tax increase be over what it was in 2019?  Council is going to struggle to keep it below 5%.  That isn’t going to be easy.

Related news stories.

The 2019 budget

How much was that tax increase?


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3 comments to The 2020 budget is not going to be the gift that we got in 2019 – the increase in 2020 over 2019 could be as much as 100%.

  • David

    A disturbance in the force. I have never been a big fan of Councillor Sharman up until the point he didn’t fly to Japan and go street dancing and now this, a critical analysis of tree’s and the climate.
    I might have to go and lie down.

  • Penny Hersh

    Last year the push of our new Mayor and Council was to keep taxes lower than they should be by taking money out of Reserve Funds ( some of which must be paid back). Did anyone actually think that this would not be the outcome?

    Each year comes with its own set of financial problems and Burlington is not prepared to deal with anything more that came our way – in this instance the Emergency Climate Change Motion that was adopted by this Council. Where did anyone think the money to support this would come from?

    Perhaps at the Action Lab on the Budget?

    Most people find it difficult to deal with their own household budgets, and yet in the name of “Engagement” the City expects the average resident to be able to offer insight with the budget of a Municipality?

    • David

      Exactly…. I will pay for what I get, this translates into I will pay for what I want….I personally don’t want much.