Mayor has her finger prints all over the 2019 budget - she will deliver on the promise.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 27th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

As city council works its way through the 2019 budget, determined, it would appear, to come in with a tax increase of not more than2.99% over what they dinged the public for last year, a number of things become evident.

The Mayor is front and center on this budget.

Reserves are not just money that is kept for a rainy day

And a new expense doesn’t just get added to the base budget where Mayor Marianne Meed Ward believes it gets forgotten.

Mayor Meed Ward

No doubt about who is steering the direction the 2019 budget is going in – Mayor Med Ward is very hands on.

Mayor Meed Ward is all over this budget; she speaks on every item, listens carefully to staff and will adjust her thinking when she hears a good argument.

She is keeping staff on their toes – and letting the Finance department know that she, the Mayor, doesn’t see those reserves as sacrosanct.

Municipalities are not allowed to show a deficit. They rely on reserves when income doesn’t match expenses.

When it looks as if there isn’t going to be enough revenue the municipality will borrow. Debt for Burlington is set at not more than 15% of revenue which is defined as what can be collected through property taxes.

In the municipal world they never know what is going to hit them next: a flood, an ice storm or a winter when snowfall exceeds what was expected – and with climate change the word “expected” isn’t something that makes sense anymore.

During the current budget discussions Meed Ward made it clear that asking her to go along with the addition of staff isn’t a given.

The Joseph Brant Museum people made a request for staff needed to operate the museum expansion expected to open around July of this year.

Any new people were going to be needed on an ongoing basis going forward – it would make sense to add those costs to the base budget – no?

Meed Ward didn’t see it quite that way. She was prepared to go along with new staff costs on a one time basis and have the museum staff return the following year and let council know how they had done in terms of revenue. She wanted the museum people to know that she expected the museum to earn at least a part of their keep.

It would be a little on the harsh side to say that the Mayor was being hard nosed – but she is certainly not being a push over. If Burlington’s bureaucrats want public money for their operations – they are going to have to show this council that they are going to put the funds to good use and bring back as much as they can as a return.

House view west

Joseph Brant Museum – undergoing a rebuild – scheduled to open in July, will look a lot different.

There was a staff Direction included for the Executive Director of the Museum that set out what was expected of her – Barb Teatero had left the meeting before that document got read into the record.

The Mayor is working with five people who are new to the world of municipal finance. One would hope that much of this new approach to financing city operations rubs off on these new Councillors – Meed Ward isn’t going to be Mayor for life. Our guess – two terms and she will be off for bigger things.

Shawna looking lost

Councillor Stolte on the right with Councillor Nisan during budget discussions.

When determining who the Standing Committee Chairs would be, Meed Ward didn’t have much to pick from. Ward 4 Councillor Stolte struggles at times with the numbers side of things, Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna doesn’t always fully grasp what the issue is, Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan seems to want to align himself with ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman but also wants to go out on his own – he just isn’t sure quite where that is.

Angelo + Kelvin

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith explaining a point to ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith certainly understands the numbers – at times he seems positively amazed at what goes on in the world of municipal finance.

Kearns - office art

Ward 2 Councillor with art by a local painter in her office that has a lot of non issue furniture as well.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns has a sound understanding of what she has to do and has surprised many with the way she handles herself. She has the most developed sense of humour on this council and doesn’t let anything on the numbers side get past her –at least not so far.

As for Councillor Sharman, ward 5, he appears to suffer some indigestion when he sees the way Mayor Meed Ward drains funds from the surplus accounts.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly

1 comment to Mayor has her finger prints all over the 2019 budget – she will deliver on the promise.

  • steven craig gardner

    Totally agree museum needs more staff should be funded by admission. Given old museum was closed for 6 moths at one point and no one complained it may be a challenge for them to pay for new staff, but if they can’t maybe we did not need the new museum in the first place??
    I agree with councillor Sharman I feel dipping into reserves is a bit of a cheat vs raising taxes. With climate change never know when next natural disaster will hit be it floods, wind, snow, ice.
    Hoping when budget process done we can see how mucg was taken from reserves so we know the real cost of this years budget and what the real % increase would be without borrowing from Peter to pay Paul

Leave a Reply