Why I started a petition to stop the proposed 2025 - 8.9% increase in Burlington property taxes.

By Eric Stern

July 6th, 2024

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Let me tell you why I started a petition to stop the proposed 8.9% increase in 2025 Burlington property taxes. Burlington City Council has a spending problem”.

My petition asks the city for three things,

a zero percent increase in taxes for 2025,

clear language when communicating tax increases,

and an understandable budget.

1 – No increases in 2025

When talking about tax increases in Burlington, the city and Mayor Meed Ward often talk about the impact of the increase on our tax bill.

When talking about a budget only two things matter.

1 – The percentage increase.

2 – The dollar value increases.

The last municipal election was in 2022. On our final tax bills, for 2023, there is a line starting with M – Municipal line, that showed an increase  that amounted to 15.59%.

Your 2024 tax bill would show, at the same place M – Municipal line showing an increase of 10.21%.

The budget numbers for 2022

The approved budget for 2022, operating and capital combined, was $362.1 million.

The numbers for the 2023 budget.

The approved budget for 2023, operating and capital combined, was $434.8 million.

That’s an increase of $72.7 million taken in by the city from tax payers over a two years period.

How can the city possibly spend $72.7 million on the things that benefit the tax payers in such a short period of time?

That’s not easy for any organization to do. The city could have used the funds to pay down debt or top up reserves, but that does not appear to have happened.

This following statement on the city’s debt level  is from the 2024 approved budget:

“The City has an estimated $73.8 million in total principal debt outstanding. Taking into consideration principal debt repayments of $14.2 million, $54.7 million in debt issued and $47.7 million in debt, which has been approved and not issued, total City principal debt outstanding and remaining to be issued at year end 2023 is $162 million.”

Did the author of that statement understand what it means?

In this video, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Hassaan Basit spoke of the need to show taxpayers the value they will receive from the proposed 2025 – 8.9% tax increase that will appear on the M-Municipal line on your tax bills when they are issued in 2025 – assuming of course that the increase is not greater than 8.9 %. .

Before talking about further significant tax increases (that being the 8.9% increases the city department is projecting), the city needs to show what value taxpayers have received from the 2023 and 2024 increases. With 72.7 million additional dollars it’s hard to imagine that the sky will fall, despite what the City Manager said.

2 – Clear Language when communicating tax increases.

Burlington has an Engagement Charter that has the following statement:  “Clear Language: The City of Burlington will use plain and clear language in documents and public communications that is more engaging and understandable for citizens than technical language and jargon.”

For 2025 the proposed increase is 8.9%. This is how the mayor explains this increase on her website “the 2025 Proposed Budget. Staff are predicting a total tax increase of 5.5%, of which the City’s portion would be 4.5%.”

The reality is that the proposed budget increase is 8.9%, and the M-Municipal line on your tax bill  will show that  8.9% increase. . The mayor needs to stop freeloading on the other parts of our tax bill to make her increases look somewhat acceptable.

Using the approved 2024 budget total of $434.8 million – 8.9% of that amounts to $38,697,200 of additional dollars for the city to spend.

3 – Share the details of the budget in a way the community can understand them.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns: “I would call it like mumbo jumbo.”

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns, speaking to a community meeting about the budget said:  “The budget is really hard to understand. I would call it like mumbo jumbo. Its 700 pages. “ Kearns is one of the brighter members of this Council and is usually able to figure out complex document. For a more in depth look at what Kearns told her constituents click HERE.

City staff, people that are paid with money tax payers provide, prepare a budget that Kearns called “mumbo jumbo. The people given the 700 pages from city staff – the people we pay to represent us then have to deal with the “mumbo jumbo”

How is this mumbo jumbo possible?

Doreen Sebben

Lydia Thomas

Our councillors have failed to insist that staff use language that is easily understood and graphics that help make the point. They have allowed this situation to get out of hand. Kearns talks about change, and there have been some changes – they were the result of and a response to excellent delegations from Lydia Thomas and Doreen Sebben.

Kearns complains about mumbo jumbo but it takes citizen action to force changes. We elect council members to work with city staff on our behalf. What has this council been doing? The budgets have been confusing for years. The M-Municipal line on the tax bill increases have become so large that citizens are having to complain directly to the council. Maybe our councillors are starting to wake up and talk about change. We’ll have to wait and see if this is just talk or if there will be real change.

One question remains, why wasn’t something done about the mumbo jumbo years ago?

Something is rotten in the state of Burlington.

Please consider signing the petition:

Eric Stern is a retired business owner with a keen eye and a desire to keep his dollars in his wallet. When the dollars come out of his wallet he expects value in exchange for the money.  He does not feel the city is giving him measurable value.

 

 

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22 comments to Why I started a petition to stop the proposed 2025 – 8.9% increase in Burlington property taxes.

  • Tom Muir

    I still don’t know exactly what the budget “impact” babble that The mayor refers to is or means, or is somehow different from the actual dollar amount increase and percentage increase.

    I can still read what I have to pay in taxes of different kinds at the municipal level and how much that differs in dollar amount from last year for the City, and what percent it is.

    Maybe the Mayor can get someone in her hordes of staff, or even do it herself in plain language, if she still knows any.

    Remember. If you don’t tell the whole truth, you are not being honest.

  • Christine Miller

    Enough Already with the Tax Hikes in Burlington Ontario!
    Is the local government trying to get people moving out of the Burlington area? Just how much more does the government expect the citizens to absorb?
    Let’s get real … Burlington Government take on the responsibly the people gave you to do. Balance a budget without overloading people of Burlington Ontario!!!

  • Mira

    Well done Eric! Thank you!!!! Respect love and gratitude to you !

  • Lynn Crosby

    And look at this from the Spectator and Inside Halton. Would you rather fund our libraries or another trip for the Mayor and friends to go to Japan, renovations to city hall inside and out, etc?

    https://www.thespec.com/news/a-new-place-for-us-to-be-burlington-public-library-anticipates-budget-shortfall/article_5b2aafac-b9ee-558f-8699-3f783692c20c.html

    “Burlington Public Library (BLP) staff say meeting the City of Burlington’s 1.75 per cent maximum budget increase guideline won’t provide enough funding for core services next year.”

    … And Brock Uni/Bateman boondoggle part of the reason why:

    “Key budget pressures identified include additional operating costs of $50,000 next year for the New Appleby Branch moving to the city’s Robert Bateman Community Centre — and the larger location’s ongoing annual operating cost increases of $86,000, starting in 2026. With no additional staff being added for the move, increased costs are related to the city’s lease, utilities and management of a larger space.”

    • Joe Gaetan

      I have to ask why the Public Library is a free-for-all, why not charge users $10.00 per year to use this valuable service to the community? The statement that accompanied my last book rental showed I saved $39.95 for that rental alone. And why not put a time limit on computer usage, first 10-15 minutes free from thereon 20 cents a minute. And so on. Time to go from free-for-all to, pay-for-use. And yes I recognize some of our neighbours who due to high tax increases may struggle, but we have to start somewhere to turn this financial Titanic around.

  • Caren

    I truly think that both our City Staff; Mayor and Council need to take a course in Finances; Financial Accounting and also one on how to prepare a Municipal Financial Budget that can be understood by Burlington Residents. (No more Mumbo Jumbo).
    Our City Council must start being fiscally responsible with our Property Tax dollars starting right now.
    There should be no need to raise our Property Taxes again this year!!
    No more spending on Vanity and Legacy Projects. Halt the Renovations Now of Civic Square at City Hall; at a cost of $7.6 Million dollars from Tax payers! We do not need this done. Redo the surface pavers and throw in some planters. Done and done!

  • Wayne Sloan

    I signed !!!!
    sadly the citizens of Burlington have been silent … watching from the sidelines as these power hungry, suspicious parasites make promises and deliver little.
    developers … developers …. developers are the puppeteers in Burlington.
    Recent Mayors and Councils in town have sold us out !!
    On Lakeshore, Plains, and Fairview, they continue to build, but are in fact making the City smaller for most of us.
    “instead of giving politicians the keys to a City, it might be wiser to change the locks”

  • Wayne

    I signed !!!
    it’s sad indeed that the citizens of Burlington have stood by idely while these short-sighted, power hungry, suspicious parasites demand more from us and give us less.
    simple requirements like , cost control, development oversight, accountability and integrity are lost with this and previous groups.
    but we stand quietly …. and silently, and hope these people perform in our best interests.
    “instead of giving a politician the keys to a city, it might be better to change the locks”

  • Stephen White

    Great post Eric! Well done!

    I read the budget and it is awash in jargon and data that is not fully explained. This Council needs to get the message that the public is fed up with tax increases for silly vanity projects and programs that benefit a handful of residents. It takes political courage to say “No”, and sadly, most of our Councillors and, it appears, the Mayor, go along to get along.

  • Phil Steinberg

    Well done Eric. It’s about time residents start challenging the mindset at City Hall. I fear these outrageous tax increases are due to the Mayor and City Council getting us in too deep with boondoggles like the bottomless pit Brock University campus on New St. Memories of the Burlington Pier fiasco come to mind. Our local government is blindly led by a Mayor who loves vanity legacy projects and we get stiffed with the bill. We need a City Council that minds our tax dollars like a family budget, not like a bottomless pit of money that they can freely access. Before asking tax payers for out of touch tax increases, we need to demand to see what cuts have been made. For example, wage freezes, hiring freezes, cuts to services, etc. Prove to taxpayers you have done everything you can, to save tax payers money, before hitting us up for anymore tax increases. The way things sit right now I would kick out the Mayor and all City Councillors at the next election and put in place a realistic common sense Council that feels and understands taxpayers pain.

    • Anne and Dave Marsden

      A pier that has never been legislative compliant in terms of identified barriers and this council claims we are on track with identifying and removing ALL BARRIERS to our tax dollar provided amenities and services. COB does not understand what a barrier to a person with disabilities is or that it includes the sole purpose of the pier enjoying the view which those with mobility disabilities that require wheelchair or scooter cannot. If they refuse to listen, as they have done for the last decade, as to what are barriers, Burlington will never be barrier free. That fellow taxpayers is a huge issue in terms of tourism dollars.

      Eric pointed out last budget that city not compliant with Municipal Act requirements – totally ignored we do not have access to material that helps us detrmine what are the best interests of the residents as is required. Along with, of course, what the real percentage increase was.

      • Greg

        Ahh, that’s sad, are you going to complain about the barriers to using the jungle gym and the slides at the playground as well? Hopefully, you don’t start going after the conservation authority to make those escarpment top views accessible, or the Regional portion of the bill will start going up and we’ll be in real trouble.

        It’s ridiculous that you’re complaining about property tax increases when you’re advocating the city spend over a million on an elevator to get you up 25 stairs to enjoy an elevated view towards the end of the pier. The other option would be constructing a ramp that would diminish the aesthetics, be space-intensive and probably require a costly widening of the pier. The entire pier is accessible except for one small platform 2/3 of the way down it

        Making Burlington barrier-free is never going to pay for itself in tourism dollars as you laughably suggest but it is the right thing to do. The work the city has done and continues to do on this file is incredible.

        The city portion of the tax bill will keep going up because it needs to. Inflation, taxpayer demands and the fact our city can no longer balance the budget with development charges as we could in the past. We are pretty much built out unlike the other municipalities in our region that are cashing in on the greenfield development charges. Those will eventually dry up as they have in Burlington and their taxpayers will be left holding the bag unable to support all the infrastructure that Spawl will have created.

        Burlington needs more intensification to solve this but you complain about that as well. Looks like we have a big problem. We have more people living in the same area to help pay for our existing roads, infrastructure and services to hold the line on property taxes these days.

        The reality is if you’ve owned a home in Burlington and been paying property tax as long as you’ve been complaining on this and similar forums as well as running for office you’re probably ahead $500,000 to 1 million dollars in the value of your home. Grow up, seriously.

        • Anne and Dave Marsden

          GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT GREG. No elevator just a low cost rail modification to obtain compliance with legislation. Not that it is any of your business how successful we have been in investing money in a home so we are not a burden to others in our old age, Dave just turned 80 Anne is pretty close, but you are dead wrong there too. Your made up facts aligns you with those the petition will hold accountable and hold their feet to the fire until truth is admitted.

        • Jim Thomson

          “you’re probably ahead $500,000 to 1 million dollars in the value of your home.”

          Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.- Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Grey)

        • Blair Smith

          There are three gates to the Buddhist communications paradigm – each has priority over the one previous. When you speak – “Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind”. You don’t make it out of the first gate.

          • Anne and Dave Marsden

            Very true Blair after being the bad guys in long and nasty battles to get our condo accessible (owners in wheelchairs were getting trapped between doors) years later our biggest and nastiest opponent apologised. His wife became a wheelchair user and he found out for himself why we needed to comply with the law, as the city will have to. Greg needs to prepare for the day when he may not want to oppose in the manner he chose, a cost effective means of complying with access laws.

    • Lynn Crosby

      Very well said Phil! Agree with every word.

    • Caren

      Phil,
      Thank you, I completely agree with your comments.
      “Mayor My Way” and City Council need to start “reading the room” and listen to what Burlington Tax Payers are asking them to do. No more Tax Increases. No more vanity and legacy projects; and No to renovations of Civic Square at City Hall; Stop this project Now. Repair the pavers and leave it as is. We as Tax Payers do not want to pay $7.6 Million dollars on this project no matter which level of government the funding is coming from.!

  • Grahame

    I suggest that Eric post this message on the “Naxt Door” website.

  • Anne and Dave Marsden

    We will be signing Eric and doing whatever we can to support your efforts to have COB begin to comply with an Engagement Charter that has been in place for 11 years. We have been putting significant effort into having such compliance since 2014 to no avail. Your exposure of something rotten in Burlington shows it is time for us to pull out all the stops to taxpayer demands for full legislative, City by-law and policy compliance.

    We must all pull together to accomplish what we must to end this governance the Meed Ward et al way and restore a legislative compliant COB that is accountable to those whose hard earned dollars they have taken in a manner that is reminiscent of the masked bandits who roamed the UK highways and byways of old.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Eric: Many thanks to yourself, Lydia and Doreen for taking this on on behalf of the taxpayers of Burlington. The budget communication from the City is baffling, confusing and in some cases misinformation. If I did not know better I would say some councillors have not figured out how to calculate increases. I have signed the petition.

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