They couldn’t resist it – Taylor warned them it was folly but they think they can fool you by saying it is a 2.07% tax increase. It’s 4.46%

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 19th, 2013 – City media release. The City of Burlington has approved the city’s 2013 current budget, which will increase taxes by 2.07 %, or $19.08 for each $100,000 of residential urban value assessment.

“I would like to commend staff, and the city’s budget committee for a job well done,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “As a municipality, it is always a balance of priorities to look at the quality of life expectations of today with the long-term financial needs of tomorrow. I believe we have effectively made some decisions that serve the people of Burlington while still keeping tax rates competitive with those of other municipalities.”

“Council approved an increase to the hospital levy to $3.6 million, and an increase in funding for infrastructure, with $2 million dedicated towards the city’s local roadway resurfacing program.

“When approving the 2013 current budget, City Council focused on efficiencies in service delivery and the key strategic priorities, outlined in the city’s strategic plan, Burlington, Our Future,” said Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor, chair of the city’s budget committee. “Council takes very seriously every decision related to spending, whether it’s the operating budget or the capital budget. We are focused on what matters to the people of Burlington.”

It took them five paragraphs but they finally fessed up:

“The 4.46 per cent tax rate increase to the city’s portion of the property tax bill is combined with the Region of Halton’s increase of 0.8 per cent and an education increase of zero per cent, resulting in an overall property tax rate increase of 2.07 per cent.”

Councillor Sharman wanted to skew the budget numbers to make them look better.

Councillor Taylor told Sharman “playing with budget numbers for political reasons will come back to bite you.”

What council tried to do was use the regional portion of the tax levy along with the Board of Education levy, which were both a 0% increase over last year, and combine those two with the Police budget, which had a  small increase over last year – and use those lower numbers to make the city numbers look better.  That’s  what we call “trying to pull a fast one”.    It was Councillor Sharman, an accountant at heart, who first mentioned the 2% number.  Bit of jiggery poking on his part which Councillor Taylor warned would come back to bite him.  The surprise is that the Mayor went along with the scam.

At the Council budget debate, where they basically review and for the most part rubber stamp what was done at the committee level, the more contentious matters get a second hard look.

The public can delegate and this year there was a delegation from Bfast, a citizens advocacy group that wanted Council to defer the bus fare increase until there was an opportunity for some significant public comment.  On that level the Bfast people were correct: the city did not take the matter of a rate increase to the public.  So much for community engagement.

Transit, the funding of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, the funding of the Performing Arts centre, finding the money to keep the roads in decent repair and ensuring that we maintain our contribution to the hospital were the items that got all the attention.

Did they develop a good budget for you?  It wasn’t a bad budget but it papers over quite a few problems and doesn’t provide enough money to fill all the pot holes.

Taylor appeared to be the only person who had much in the way of empathy for the people who can’t afford the cost of transit.  Meed Ward was with him on this to some degree – but the rest, they just didn’t get it.  Going without isn’t a part of their life experience.

“In 2012 the city generated a surplus of $2.3 million. The surplus was used to reduce the impact of one-time or temporary costs on the 2013 budget, said the city’s media release.

It went on to point out that “The city has a long-term financial plan that creates a sustainable financial position for Burlington.”   City Manager Jeff Fielding said:  “The budget is aligned to the City’s investment and operational priorities as outlined in that plan. We are in good financial shape, with a solid base budget, responsible debt management and adequate reserve fund balances.”

Was it a good budget?  It wasn’t a bad budget but given that the budget next year will be the last before this council has to go to the polls again – they’ve not left themselves much room to offer the voters some goodies to keep them happy and plump – before they get plucked again.  Councillor Dennison sent his regrets – he was unable to attend the meeting – can’t blame any of this on him then can we?

A 2.07% increase – nice try.  Just how stupid do your think these voters are?



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