Some magazine said we were the number one medium sized city: do the facts support that? Basically – yes!

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.

January 15, 2014

While Burlington’s budget is certainly not settled – the broad strokes are clear enough.  The public will watch council members jockey for position and do some posturing but the basics are clear.

It’s quite a city.  And for the most part it is well run.

There is a strong case for putting more into infrastructure maintenance and not as strong a case yet for culture.  Pushing back some of the capital projects a few years – grade separations on Mainway and Burloak are at the top of that list.

The tax bill the city sends you is for services provided by the school board and the Region which covers police, waste management and most of the social services. The Region has a billion dollar budget. The city collects for everyone and we send their portion along to them.

Council will beaver away at the small stuff – next year they will be looking at a significantly different approach to the creation of the budget.  City Manager Jeff Fielding talks of 2014 being a transformative year during which a specific staff member gets named as the owner of a service and works  with the various departments involved in the delivering of that service.

The city is moving out of a departmental approach to budgeting to a service approach.  It will take getting used to for many of the people at city hall.

Fielding is also taking a long hard look at the services the city is in.  Should we be doing this is a question he will be putting in front of whatever the public elects in the way of a city council this October.   That’s something you might want to keep in mind as you look over the talent that offers itself for public service.

For those thinking about running for office – being a member of city council is going to take a lot more in the way of intellectual capacity and it will be a lot more exciting from a career development point of view.  Having just a pretty face and being a nice guy won’t cut it anymore.

The average assessment of dwellings in Burlington.

What does Burlington have in the way of an economic base – that is how many dwellings are there and what are they worth because it is this economic base that taxes are drawn from.

We spend less of our income on taxes than most of the comparable communities – but we are marginally higher than Toronto.

What has Burlington paid in the way of taxes historically and what percentage of household income did those taxes s eat up?  Are Burlingtonians spending a disproportionate part of their income on property taxes?  We compare favourably with other communities in our part of the province and our size.

We are below the average in terms of property taxes.

Burlington is on the high side this year when compared with other municipalities in the Region.  Last years Oakville was the highest.

How does Burlington compare with other communities?  People choose a community for is location and for the amenities it offers.  Are the schools good schools?  Are the parks and recreation services good.  Are seniors a part of the community?  Is this a good place to raise children?  Are the taxes decent.

Is the community a safe place?  Is it a caring community?

Those roads, bridges and libraries are all our to operate.  We have more in the way of capital infrastructure than anyone else – and fewer dollars to pay for it all.  And yet, for the most part municipalities make it work.

Municipalities deliver the bulk of the services people use but they certainly don’t have the bulk of the tax revenue.  They are also close to the bottom rung of the services food chain.  Libraries, museum, swimming pools and ball parks along with ice arenas are provided by municipalities who operate under the rules set out by the province.

Background:

First look at the 2014 budget.

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