City tax rate for 2013 – $16.32 for every $100,000 of valuation. They kept the tax hike to 3.46% with the hospitasl levy of 1% on top of that.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 28, 2013  “The impact per $100,000 CVA for an urban residential property is $16.32 with respect to the 4.46% city portion.”  Those were the words straight from the horse’s mouth – Director of Finance Joan Ford, who shepherded city council through a marathon city council committee meeting at which the budget was basically set.

It will go to a city council meeting and be cast in stone.  All kinds of detail to come but the basics are: Performing Art Centre got their money $225,000 to cover the short fall and money for two years for a technician (expect that to become full-time)  and money for a sales associate who is going to get behind and push to ramp up the sales numbers – especially on the rental side where the Centre fell very flat last year.

The Burlington Art Centre got the funding they needed to recast themselves and to figure out who they want to be, where they want to go and then how they will get there.  They didn’t get the chunk of change they needed to pay their staff what they felt they were worth.  That’s an ongoing problem they are going to have to deal with – and it might result in their losing some key people.

Finance department staffers excelled once again not only with the detail and the way they were able to grab numbers out of the air when questions were asked but with the way they presented the data so that council members could see the impact on the tax levy as they debated different sending requests.

Burlington Economic Development got the money they needed to come up with an organization that can attract new business to the city.  Burlington has reached residential build out – there ain’t no more land to put those housing projects on – unless we try to go north of Dundas- 407 and that is not going to happen.

So – find the analysts who can figure out what there is for us out there and then put a marketing genius in place who can do the work that has to be done to make Burlington a city that at least gets some serious attention.

Our Mayor can’t help himself when he says we are the greatest place in this province to live in but he has not managed to attract people to the city.  In some municipalities,  the Mayor is the #1 sales person and works the phones tirelessly to let people know why Burlington deserves a really close look.

That’s not the kind of Mayor we have – a Lee Iacocca he ain’t – so the city will have to find someone who can do the selling.

Transit got basically all it asked for – but you dear transit user are also getting what you didn’t ask for and that is a rate increase – 8% across the board with special situations we will set out for you later.

The fire department got an additional mechanic so that the fire trucks will be able to get out the door when the fire alarm is sounded.

The city manager has a pool of money that he dispenses to each department that is used as merit pay for staff that go above and beyond.  And many of them do.  The crew that pulled together the presentation of all the financial data, deserved no less than a double scotch or a bag of cookies – whichever they preferred, for their efforts today.

The ‘bean counters’ set up a computer that handled transactions and then fed the data into a second computer that projected the information on a large screen and also onto the monitors sitting in front of staff and council members.

Every time a decision was made to spend dollars the number would appear on the screen showing how much was spent and what that impact was on the tax bill.

It was a tough, tough day for Councillor John Taylor.  He sits on the board of the Burlington Art Centre and is passionate about the operation and the staff but he wasn’t able to get council to go along with an allocation that would allow Art Centre management to correct the significant imbalance between city hall staff and Art Centre staff salaries.

At around 2:30 pm it Councillor  Taylor who was chairing the meeting began to lose it.  He was deeply hurt when he realized the Art Centre staff were not going to get what he believed they deserved and that weighed on him.  He was tired and dis-spirited and suggested the meeting adjourn and come back to it tomorrow. His colleagues were not on for that and suggested he turn the chair over to Councillor Meed Ward and she ran the show for the balance of the meeting.

There were no delegations – this was council members dealing with the projects they wanted to see go forward.  Then Councillor Craven snuck one in and asked if the Director of Museums could plead for $7000 for a curator.  She got it – and Craven broke every rule in the Procedural Manual to pull that one off.

It was sort of like driving through a super market aisle and dropping items into your cart and seeing a screen with your total spend on it.  Throughout the day – the session went from 9:30 to 4:00 pm with a 25 minute lunch break – the number went up, then down, but mostly up.  As the budget session was near its end council members looked at the numbers and wondered where they could cut.  They had given out a lot of money, which they felt was needed and that old shave and pave spend kept coming back.  Councillor Dennison was merciless at getting every dollar he could grab.  He argued, again and again, that every dollar spent now was $3 saved down the road.

Council decided to take the $2.2 million in surplus from last year and put it in the tax rate stabilization fund and transfer funds to accounts to pay the bills out of that account.  The spending done amounted to $1,938,360 which when taken out of the $2.2 million surplus they had to play with – there wasn’t much to leave on the table.  Some would treat the difference as a rounding number.

In the closing minutes of the meeting Mayor Goldring wondered what the city was going to do for what he called “opportunity” money; those situations that come along and shouldn’t be passed on.


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