What your council members think of the $238 million dollar operating budget they passed last night.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 24th, 2017



For Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward it was a good budget – bad budget. There were thing she liked and things she thought were a mistake.

For Meed Ward the $550,000 they gave the city manager to spend on “project management” was something she needed clarity on; she wasn’t clear on just what the deliverables were going to be.

When city manager James Ridge was explaining what he was going to do with the $550,000 he said he was “surprised” the city hadn’t put in something like this years ago.

Meed Ward H&S profile

Councillor Meed Ward saw the 2017 budget as both a “good” and a “bad” budget. |She chose not to vote for the budget. A principled statement.

What bothered Meed Ward was that the $550,000 was going into the base budget – which meant it was there until someone decides to take it out. And in Burlington city staff are not very quick at taking anything out of the budget. The Finance department did say however that they had cut $1 million out of spending from the 2017 as they were putting the plans together. There was no breakdown of where the savings were found.

Meed Ward liked the $200,000 that was put into upgrading the playing fields.

She was content with the 1.25 tax levy dedicated to infrastructure.

She was Ok with the $4.8 million that was given to the hospital as the city’s portion of the $120 million the province said the city had to come up with for the refurbishment/redevelopment of the Joseph Brant Hospital.

Meed Ward wanted something done on transit – but that football got kicked further down the field – they are waiting for the draft of the Master Transportation Plan to come in – due in Q2

Councillor Sharman (ward 5) was all for the budget. He loves the $550,00 the city manager wants to spend on project management and said, with some gusto, that the 1.25% levy dedicated to infrastructure was long overdue. On that one he is correct. Why this wasn’t done a number of years ago boggles the mind.

Sharman pointed out that Staff did not support the $200,000 spend on playing field improvement but he liked the idea of spending some of the money needed to upgrade the fields this year with more to follow next year.

Sharman July 2016

Councillor Sharman uses a unique mathematical equation to arrive at the rate of tax increase levied on the tax payers.

Every council member noted that the next budget is going to dig even deeper into the pockets of taxpayers.  Don’t expect those statements to be repeated in the October 2018 municipal election

Sharman explained, as he always does – that the tax increase is really not 4.42 but closer to 3%. He does this mathematical magic by including what the Board of Education spends along with what the Region spends – and if the city controlled the spending by those two bodies – Sharman would be correct.

The city has no impact whatsoever on Board of Education spending and little influence on what the Region spends. Oakville has the same number of Regional representatives as Burlington but that town has a lot more clout.

Councillor Taylor (ward 3) said he had decided to support the budget and recognized that city staff had dug deeper and pulled out very significant savings – he then added that the 20 year growth goal is not going to be met.

Budget 2015 Continuous improvement

Business process management – put in place in 2015 – Councillor Taylor wants to see some of the benefits of that process paying off – soon.

Taylor has been on city council longer than any other member of council – he knows where the bones are buried – and if his nose smells something – the chances are that there is something foul coming our way.

Budget 2015 Services at the centre of it all

It was all supposed to come together – and the payoff was going to make it all worth the cost. Project managers are apparently needed now to make this work.

Taylor mentioned the process improvement procedures that were put in place a few years ago which he supported. He said he felt it was “time we saw some benefits now”.

Councillor Craven did what was expected – took yet another shot at Councillor Meed Ward and upbraided her for the comments she had made on transit. Meed Ward had said she felt the free transit service on Monday’s for seniors from 10 am to 3 pm should be tried on a pilot basis. Council turned down that idea choosing instead to wait for the draft Master Transportation Plan to arrive.

Councillor Rick Craven, centre, with a copy of the 2013 budget on a memory stick. Craven did a superb job of chairing the budget committee last year. He will have no argument with candidate Henshell over the need for additional shopping facilities in Aldershot - getting themt there has been the challenge.

Councillor Rick Craven, centre, with a copy of the 2013 budget on a memory stick. Finance does a superb job of giving council members all the information they could possibly want.

Craven told his colleagues that their job as Council members was to listen to what was said to them and then he pointed to the Integrated Transit Advisory Committee that was very critical of what Jim Young produced on behalf of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee about the transit service.

Councillor Dennison noted that he had chosen not to comment on the budget during the Standing Committee discussions. He added a significant comment when he said he had a grand total of 3-4 people at his ward meeting to talk about the budget which was apparently less than the city had at the budget briefing event they held at the Haber Recreation Centre in December.

Dennison pointed out that the $340,000 being spent on a bus route intended to service the seniors community was set up as a pilot project that was still in the budget.

Dennison announcingHe wanted to know why city staff had assumed that the increase in $200,000 in parking fines during a six month period would not continue to grow.

Staff had said that they felt a saturation point has been reached.

The city spent a very pretty penny on the new parking meters – to have those machines bring in an additional $200,000 in revenue to the city suggests they just may have made a solid decision – not that those getting the parking tickets will see it quite that way.

Dennison did think the city should look for more in the way of a return on its investments. It also brought in $200,000 in revenue. He wanted to know where that income was applied.

Dennison is not a big fan of the cultural sector – he does like the Sound of Music festival but feels the cultural sector, which is costing much more than a million a year, is a little too steep.

Finally the leaves are an issue for the ward 4 Councillor. He, along with Councillor Lancaster, want to see better leaf collection. The change in the weather this year, had trucks out picking up leaves while they were still on the trees and then not being available when the leaves were on the ground.

Burlington is apparently one of the few cities that has a leaf collection program. Try taking that one away from them.

Councillor Lancaster noted that “budgets are always a challenge” but that she “believed the 2017 budget represents what our residents want”.

Lancaster as deputy mayor with her Mom

Councillor Blair |Lancaster the day she filled in for the Mayor and chaired a council meeting. She liked the seat so much she had her Mother pose with her. She didn’t get to wear the chain of office – probably never will.

Lancaster was very much onside for that $550,000 spend on “project management”. She pointed out that this is the first time that funds have been put in place to support the Strategic Plan initiatives. Other council members had pointed out that in the past the city had crafted a Strategic Plan and then not put any money behind it. The city manager was probably the major force for creating a 25 year Strategic Plan which, while nice in principle – is not binding on future city council’s.

Lancaster told her colleagues that “residents should be happy”

Mayor Goldring was enthusiastic – this was a good budget and he was happy with the “heft” the project spending would give the city manager.

What worried Mayor Goldring was the lack of any assessment growth. He said the growth needs to be six times what it was last year and explained that it does take time for the benefits of assessment increases to work their way to the city’s till.

There is a fiscal study coming sometime in the 2Q that may have some of the answers.

Mayor Goldring: Is there an event he won't attend? He doesn't have to get out to everything - but he usually does.

Mayor Goldring regrets the lack of assessment growth that would put more money into the city’s cash coffers. Hoping that there will be an increase next year.

Mayor Goldring said he was looking to the Economic Development Corporation to deliver on its mandate to bring new business to the city. There haven’t been many (any?) new business announcement lately.

The vinyl record company that finally got the record presses operating will tell you a very sad story about the hoops they had to go through to get their building permit in hand.

The last word on the budget and what it is expected to do goes to Joan Ford who said: “This budget clearly sets out initiatives to plan for the future. These initiatives became key priorities for new city investment when developing the budget this year. Connecting the strategic plan to the budget provides accountability between what is achieved and the cost to the taxpayer.”

Let’s see how that works out.

Tax billing
With the budget passed the Finance department can now begin to send out the tax bills – that is when the rubber will hit the road. The public doesn’t pay that much attention to the goings on at city hall but when that envelope with the tax bill arrives – the sticker shock take effect.

The city has to pass a levying by-law before they can send out both interim or final tax billing. They have done that.

Interim tax billings are produced in January based on the assessment as per the assessment roll provided by MPAC and ½ the appropriate tax rates.

The tax bill will clearly identify the City, property, owner, state the demand date, calculated taxes levied and any arrears owing against the property.

Final tax billings are produced subsequent to the passing of the annual city budget and are based on tax rates established by by-law from the budget requirements of the City, Region and Ministry of Education.

The billing will be calculated to produce a tax billing equal to the assessment times the appropriate rate, all local improvement charges and any special charges levied by the city.

Mail box

Tax bill will arrive soon enough – hold your breath for a moment before you open it.

The Municipal Act requires tax billings be sent to every taxpayer at least twenty-one calendar days before the first installment due date.

Due dates for the payment of taxes are traditionally as follows: Interim Bill: February and April. Final Bill: June and September.

Keep an eye on your mail box.

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5 comments to What your council members think of the $238 million dollar operating budget they passed last night.

  • Citybiker

    What do bike lanes have in common with Burlington’s operating budget? Not much other than people are angry. Just remember which members of council are trying to keep the community feel of burlington. Who voted to reduce ADIs building heights? Who wants to keep central high school? Remember this during the next election. Beware of populist candidates! How did Toronto end up with Rob Ford? And do I need to mention Trump?
    I encourage all the regular commenters here to put their name forward to help lead our city. You might get a few votes!

  • craig

    What are the details beind 550k project management some one must have something we cabn read or maybe city manager should leave when council is not re-elected? Never heard in the real world private sector of $550K permanent budget item ie not one time and no explanation of spend. A bit ridiculous seems Marianne Meed Ward only one on the right page. And if councilor Craven votes for his constituents why is he not againbst the road diet for new and maple as most in Burlington are very very against.

  • Jim Barnett

    Interesting. Now the city manager has a slush fund to spend on anything he thinks appropriate without any oversight. He can use it to cover errors in the budgeting process. And of course he can use it hire his friendly consultants to promote his ideas for the future like Road Diets.

    I can see now why the there is an ever increasing call for new blood at council.

  • Penny

    I would like to know if the $340,000.00 that Jack Denison mentioned for the transit for seniors is the Community Bus Service? If this is so I would like to know how successful this project has been. Perhaps this money and service needs to be revamped to really serve the seniors? Presently I don’t think it is effective.

    Perhaps it is time for seniors to stand up and be counted when it comes to public transit. If the cycling committee can have so much clout, certainly the number of seniors in Burlington far outnumber the cyclists.

    We need someone to mobilize the senior residents of Burlington for better service. Not necessarily free transit but better routing, less wait times and how to get residents , with mobility issues, from their homes to the bus stops. The handi-van does not work for everyone and is very limited in its scope.

    I have looked at what Oakville transit provides for its seniors – and Burlington has a long way to go to meet this level of service. It is unfortunate that Council members don’t feel that public transit would provide a much better way of getting people out of their cars than dedicated bicycle lanes on streets that really cannot accommodate them properly.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Was there any discussion whatsoever on reducing cost anywhere?