Council members get a chance to promote their pet projects - some want to spend spend, others want to save.

Budget 2020 redBy Pepper Parr

December 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

City Council will meet today and Thursday to crunch the budget numbers and deliver a budget that has a municipal tax increase of as close to 4% as they can keep it.

There is a lot of spending – staff has to be paid and services delivered.

Each budget season Councillors are given blank Budget Action Request (BAR) forms upon which they can write in changes they would like to see to the budget.

Given that last year was their first year at budget making we didn’t see much in the way of creative spending.

This time around they know more and have come up with things they would like to see done for the betterment of the city as well as things that will help in a future election.

Shawana Stolte 1

Councillor Shawna Stolte – the big spender in this budget.

In the previous two councils Marianne Meed Ward was usually the lead with things she wanted to see money spent on.

A total of 67 BAR requests were filed: Galbraith 4; Kearns 13; Nisan 11; Stolte 12; Sharman 12; Bentivegna 9 and Meed Ward 6.

Stolte took the prize for the biggest spend – she wanted to see a tax levy of $2,075,000 dedicated to the electrification of public transit. This whopping sum on transit sets out just how much the attitude towards transit has changed – there was a point when the city didn’t have a transit advisory committee and had a Councillor who wanted people to have to undergo a means test to get half price tickets.

Sharman - Bentevegna + Stolte

Councillor Sharman, centre. appears to want to have nothing to do with the chit chat between Bentivegna and Stolte.

Transit cuts and additions got the most attention; Sharman wanted to defer all spending on new buses until there was a transit business plan in place: savings $789,737. Kearns wanted to save that same amount of money by taking away the delegated authority the Director of Transit has to buy electric buses until there was a workshop outlining the feasibility of a green transit fleet. Stolte wanted to remove four operators, at a savings of $394,869 and spend that money on two electric vehicles.

Sharman hand to head

Councillor Sharman – thinking it through.

Kearns Lisa side view Mar 2019

Wants to put the money Sharman has his eye on to a different use.

Six of the seven members were for spending $42,250 to cover the cost of free transit for children under 12- Sharman was the holdout.

City Council uses Staff Directions to give the city administration specific instructions on something they want done that is not covered in the delivery of services that are budgeted for each year.

The tone and content of those Directions give us some sense as to the way a Council member sees his or her role as an elected official.

Angelo Bentivegna is the author of  four of the eleven Staff Directions

Direct the Director of Roads, Parks & Forestry to review options for residential property owners to clear sidewalks in front of their property and identify any associated impacts.

Direct the Director of Building and By-law to investigate the feasibility of providing additional support to ensure by-law compliance (e.g. business and lottery licenses, building permits). Investigate pilot project on specific commercial roads to ensure compliance with all businesses to create a level playing field and to seek compliance opportunities to ensure transparent practices throughout the city. Seek opportunities to utilize business Intelligence (BI) platform for reporting data to internal and external stakeholders.

Direct the Executive Director of Environment, Infrastructure & Community services to review the impact of increasing the gas tax allocation to transit from 75/25 to 70/30.

Direct the City Clerk to review the consolidation of all funding for advisory committees with funding allocated based on an annual business plan / work plan.

Councillor Kearns has a different focus – her four Staff Directions are:

Direct the Chief Financial Officer to review the current value assessment and taxation changes for the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) properties and consult with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and the Region of Halton regarding available tax policy initiatives and report back to Council with the results of the review in Q1 2020.

Vision to Focus Plan – Financial alignment
A) Prioritize funding to implement the V2F as outlined in F-41-19 with particular focus on allocating special dividends received from Burlington Hydro toward the strategic plan.
B) Allocate any unanticipated discretionary funding from upper level governments to the 12 unfunded V2F initiatives, excluding the ZBL review scheduled for 2020 at a cost of $2.5m.

Direct the Director of Community Planning to complete Low-Rise Design Guidelines that address issues of low rise compatibility and results in Low- Rise developments that positively contribute to our urban areas.

Direct the Director of Community Planning to report on the financial impact of a recommendation to reduce fees for charitable housing organizations by Q2-2020

Councillor Stolte feels she and her colleagues need some help in getting THEIR message out and asked for $40,000 for a Part time Communications Staff for Councillors Office; Add ongoing funding for P/T staffing to be shared by Councillors’ Office.   The city already has a senior Communications manager who serves the interests of the city – Stolte thinks the Councillors need their own communications expert.

This Council has convinced itself that the Private Tree Bylaw is going to be revenue neutral; that fines will cover the cost of the five FTE that will be hired to police who cuts down trees.

During the debate on the Private Tree Bylaw at Standing Committee reference was made to how successful the pilot project in Roseland really was – there were very few people upset with having to get a permit.  Stolte did point out that the chain saws were buzzing the days and weeks before the pilot bylaw came into effect.

Is the city going to see the same thing in the next week or so? The tree bylaw will come before council on the 16th.

These BAR’s are ideas, things a Councillor would like to do or a pet project.  Few of them will get past the discussion stage.

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3 comments to Council members get a chance to promote their pet projects – some want to spend spend, others want to save.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Is anyone really surprised that the budgeting philosophy of this mayor and council is, “SPEND, TAX, and BORROW”, given their political leanings? Yesterday, Morneau announced what amounts to a $71 per year cut in income taxes for 2020 but his Liberal colleague, Meed Ward, will take that out of your pocket and more! Very few taxpayers received a 4% increase in their income this year so Meed Ward and the council have chosen to reduce everyone’s disposable income and reduce their standard of living, especially those living on fixed incomes. Truly disgraceful but virtue signalling costs money.

    A further note on the City’s tree by-law. I note that the Roseland Pilot project was supposed to run until 2021. Did the City cut it short as soon as it had “supporting” data–data that was undoubtedly skewed in their favour in the much abbreviated pilot period?

  • Jim Barnett

    I find it interesting that Councillor Stolte thinks council needs a “Minister of Propaganda”. This is the type of thinking that has tax increases beyond inflation.

  • Rob Allan

    It was only in March 2015 that the City bought nine diesel powered buses at a time when most progressive cities where moving to electric. If we had been started the move to electric then, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.
    https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/5475639-city-of-burlington-buying-nine-buses-for-4-23m/

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