You will learn what the budget total was – when you get your tax bill. Council decided you won’t be able to delegate.

By Pepper Parr

February 27, 2014


Sometime next Tuesday afternoon city council meeting as a Standing committee will recommend the current operating part of the 2014 budget.  Traditionally that recommendation goes to city Council about ten days later for final approval and the tax rate is then set.

Citizens then have an opportunity to delegate before city council and attempt to plead for changes to the budget.

People in Burlington will not have an opportunity to do that this year.  Council voted on Thursday to have the Mayor call a Special Council meeting immediately after the Standing Committee meeting and approve the budget immediately.  There will be no opportunity for the public to delegate because they will not know when the meeting is taking place.

Councillor John Taylor moved a motion on Thursday that the budget be made final at a scheduled council meeting on March 17th.  There was very little debate on the motion and Councillor Taylor wasn’t particularly direct or forceful with his comments.  Councillor Meed Ward was direct; the city manager didn’t seem to care if the date was set back to the March 17th

The vote lost 4-2; Mayor Goldring had left the Standing Committee shortly before the vote.

What is disturbing with the vote is that Council is being very deliberate in not ensuring the public has some opportunity to read about the contents of the budget; go on-line and watch parts of the debate if they wish.  It is almost as if this council has something to hide and at this point we don’t see that as the case.

It is a complex budget; we still don’t know what they plan to do with the $2.6 million 2013 surplus which they call retained savings.  Staff had difficulty getting some critical reports before the Standing Committee on time – which meant the public didn’t get much opportunity to inform themselves.  The transit advocates are close to spitting nickels over what they call the transit shenanigans.

The report on what the snow levels are to be before equipment is put out on the road was late – part of the reason for that was due to snow still falling.

“I don’t want to hear anymore delegations” said Councillor Jack Dennison.

Councillor Dennison said he didn’t want to hear any more debate on spending decisions; Councillor Sharman felt the public had had more than enough opportunity to make themselves aware of what council is doing.  Not quite sure how he arrives at that conclusion when council has yet to make many of the budget decisions.  Councillor Lancaster has never been a big fan of meeting with the public.

The public was given just the one opportunity to look at the budget in an open public meeting when they met at the Art Centre in January. .  At that time people complained that they didn’t see anything before the meeting and that all they were able to do was respond to what was put in front of them.

There were close to 100 people at that January meeting which was held south of the QEW.  Burlington now has a brand new campus in Alton Village where a second public meeting could have been held.  The finance department staff chose not to do so this year but have indicated they will do so next year.

In 2010 Burlington received the Shape Burlington report; a document put together by the late John Boich and former Mayor Walter Mulkewich who were supported by a strong committee that, believe it or not, included Blair Lancaster and Paul Sharman before they were elected to council.

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster: both part of the Shape Burlington committee who seem to have forgotten what the report was all about – civic engagement

The Shape Burlington report made it very clear that Burlington suffered from an “information deficit” – the public just didn’t have the information they were entitled to – city hall wasn’t making it available.

When the report got to Council it was unanimously adopted – then apparently forgotten.

An informed public can make informed decisions and given that it is the public’s money that is being sent giving them an opportunity to make themselves fully aware would seem reasonable.

It is sort of like the cashier not letting you see the tape with all your purchases on it but just grabbing your cash and ringing up the sale.

The public is entitled to better treatment and if democracy is to prevail the elected officials should ensure that the public has more than adequate opportunity to inform themselves.

Odd that the four people who voted against giving the public time to review the budget decisions plan to ask the public to re-elect them to office in October.

Background links:

Just the one public meeting on the budget – comments are telling.

Shape Burlington points to “information deficit”.

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3 comments to You will learn what the budget total was – when you get your tax bill. Council decided you won’t be able to delegate.

  • Roger

    It was interesting to read that Councilor Sharman and Lancaster supported that the public does not get to speak on the budget.

    This is taxation without active and engaged representation.

    Both were part of Shape Burlington and although only 2 votes on council – I was extremely disappointed that they supported removing public engagement and discussion.

    Tax money belongs to the public – not council – not being allowed to delegate – they do not consider citizen engagement valuable.

    It appears that Shape Burlington was used to advance political careers and profiles and has been long forgotten by 2 sitting councilors who were part of it.

  • Chester Staszynski

    Who cares about this. If you open the budget file up to the general public, all you will hear is a bunch of complaining by citizens who want stuff for free all the time.

    Editor’s note: Don’t you just love how healthy democracy is in Burlington? This citizen missed a couple of civics classes – and did he vote the last time out? Perhaps he wants to run for public office?

    • Chester Staszynski

      There’s not enough money allocated for the Mayor’s salary in the budget to motivate me to run for public office.