Mayor listens to a report that kept adding dollars to the budget she and her council were going to have to pass in a couple of months: she wanted staff to plan and act at the same time.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 18th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The 2018-2022 Vision to Focus Financial Plan is complex, expensive and a different approach for Burlington.

The meeting was to receive  the Financial Plan for the implementation of the strategic initiatives as defined in the 2018-2022 Burlington’s Plan: From Vision to Focus (V2F).

The portions of that vision that were to be tackled by council and Staff were:

Promoting Economic Growth
Intensification
Focused Population Growth
Increased Transportation Flows and Connectivity
Healthy Lifestyles
Environmental and Energy Leadership
Good Governance
Community Building through Arts and Culture via Community Activities

On April 11, 2016 Council approved the city’s 2015-2040 Strategic Plan; transforming the Strategic plan into a central policy document and guiding the community’s key activities, investments and actions.  Realize that the city council we had in 2016 is not the city council we have today.  Nevertheless the Strategic Plan created then is still in place.

What city council has done is approve the creation of a Business Plan that has been named Vision to Focus (V2F) which sets out what Council and the Burlington Leadership team have identified as the key priorities for the balance of this term of office.  This document establishes the strategic actions and initiatives that will focus the city’s efforts over the next four years.

The V2F work plan intends to deliver on five focus areas, with a total of 75 initiatives which are aligned to the 25-year Strategic plan.
The five focus areas are as follows:

• Focus Area 1 – Increasing Economic Prosperity and Community Responsive Growth Management
• Focus Area 2 – Improving Integrated City Mobility
• Focus Area 3 – Supporting Sustainable Infrastructure and a Resilient Environment
• Focus Area 4 – Building more Citizen Engagement, Community Health and Culture
• Focus Area 5 – Delivering Customer Centric Services with a Focus on Efficiency and Technology Transformation

V2F timeline

It’s a solid plan – can the city deliver on council’s expectations? And do enough of the city Councillors fully understand what it is about? They are at phase two and have hit some speed bumps.

The trick is to ensure that the five focus areas and the initiatives within them are aligned with the budget – that translates into – are we sure the money to do all these things is going to be in the bank.

Phase 1 of the Financial Plan for the 2015-2040 Strategic Plan was approved in July 2016 and provided a long-term financial plan to build for the long-term implications that would be realized with a 25-year vision.

None of this is going to be cheap.

A Strategic Plan Reserve Fund was established to hold funds to administer and deliver the initiatives laid out in the plan. Any unspent dollars from the annual strategic plan base budget funding is allocated to the reserve fund.

Retained Savings: Minimum of $500,000 towards the Strategic Plan reserve fund provided the city’s retained savings is $1 million or greater.  Retained Savings is what most of us know as the surplus – money that was budgeted but not spent or revenue projections that turned out to be better than expected.

Base Budget Funding: The following is a list of annual base budget funding that will be used for strategic plan implementation;

Strategic plan implementation $150,000
Policy initiatives reserve fund for planning initiatives $100,000
Culture reserve fund for cultural initiatives $50,000
Community Investment reserve fund for community engagement and empowerment initiatives $80,000

That’s a cumulative total of $380,000 – before any goodies that might come from Burlington Hydro.  Policy is to allocate future special dividends received from Burlington Hydro towards the strategic plan

The following financial plan was approved by Council to meet the funding requirements at that time and plan for future requirements.

This is to cover “much of the core planning and policy work associated with achieving the implementation of the 25-year vision of the city’s Strategic plan. Also, there are certain distinct initiatives that begin to directly deliver some of the plan commitments. Incorporated within the Focus Areas are references to many other important documents, such as the

Official Plan,

Zoning By-Law Review,

Integrated Mobility Plan,

Transit Business Plan, and Mobility Hub Plans, to name a few.

These documents will represent a holistic approach to planning ahead and form the foundation for the future success of many of the initiatives laid out in the V2F work plan and the overall strategic plan.

V2F focus areas

Type is small – if you can read it – is this what you want your city to do for you?

All this planning got Mayor Meed Ward “fussed” as she put it.

The Urban Forestry Management Plan has her asking why trees could not be planted while the planning was being done. We know we are going to be planting trees – so let’s start doing just that, said the Mayor.

With the Staff report read into the record the meeting moved on to asking questions of Satff

Meed Ward H&S profile

The Mayor was not impressed – she describes council as nimble and agile and wants that reflected in the work that gets delivered to them.

Meed Ward had had enough.

She said that what we have here are plans to develop plans.

We will be spending a lot of money without seeing any change happen.

This council has shown itself to be very action oriented

Can we not reduce the time frame or the cost for all this – preferably both.

Can we not go outside and get some of the help we need?

Meed Ward said she understood that Planning and implementation are joined at the hip but we need to see changes on the ground.

So what can we do she asked.

City manager Tim Commisso responded saying he understood and that the report was a snapshot of where we are.

We are starting so that we have something to measure; we want to be able to nail down the numbers.  Meed Ward still wasn’t happy.

She said she wanted to see “expedited” and added that she gets a little jaded about plans and added to that that in her time on council she has seen four or five different master plans.

Trees are something we can measure while we plant.

We want to be a nimble, agile council; can we act and plan at the same time ?

City manager Commisso said “yes we can”.

That was the best the Mayor was going to get out of staff that evening.

The report was moved as received and filed.

But a message had been delivered.

Council was told that “Following the quick wins and initiatives that are transitioned to operations, 51 initiatives remain.

Of these, 19 initiatives are well defined, financial resources are clearly identified and the target for completion is within the four-year time-frame.

The other 32 initiatives are multi-faceted. Multi-faceted initiatives have a foundational and an implementation component. The foundational aspect of the initiatives represents comprehensive planning that needs to occur in order to lay the foundation for future work and decision making. This planning period will occur over a four-year time-frame (2019-2022) and the resulting documents will collectively assist in guiding the City through critical decision points on executing the completion of the initiatives. The implementation component will extend beyond the four-year time frame and the required costing and timing will become available once the planning work associated with it is complete.

The following plans/ reports (not a comprehensive list) are scheduled for completion and/or initiated within the next four years;
• Adopted Official Plan
• Audit and Accountability Report

• Mobility Hub Plans
• Transit Business Plan
• Integrated Mobility Plan
• Climate Change Action Plan
• Green Fleet Strategy
• Fire Master Plan

It was close to mind boggling.  The challenge is to determine if the Staff are available to do the work and if the funds are there to pay for the consulting that is going to be needed.

There will be more on this file in the months ahead.

 

 

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2 comments to Mayor listens to a report that kept adding dollars to the budget she and her council were going to have to pass in a couple of months: she wanted staff to plan and act at the same time.

  • Hocus, pocus, focus! That’s what happens when a Council listens to need to change a successful budget process where everyone including Councillors and the public could follow where their money was going.

  • Perryb

    The Mayor is right. Plans for a plan are the refuge of staff everywhere. There is nothing wrong with picking low-hanging fruit, if only because it builds momentum and engagement.

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