Ward 5 Councillor tells city resident he is still trying to figure out the 4.56% planned tax increase.

Budget 2017 ICON aaBy Pepper Parr

January 23, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Sometime this evening, before 10:00 pm, city council will decide in a formal manner what the tax increase for 2017 is going to be.

Staff had originally put forward a budget that has an increase of 4.23% over last year which city council members, during a Committee of the Whole – Budget meeting, bumped up 4.56%.

The public has not taken to this very well.

Aldershot resident Tom Muir, in a communication to Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman set out his concerns and said that he: “appreciated that the tax details and requests are complex, but that misses a point that I made. You get lost in the details, as the arguments for and against any specific item are amplified greatly when the line item numbers get larger and larger.

“Each item can always be argued to be justified for some reason, and we apparently have limited or no means to assess what we actually got in return and concrete results benefiting the taxpayers who are paying for all of this.
“And like the hospital tab, these things just get built into the base budget in subsequent years, unless they are specified as one-off items.

“Of concern is the apparent continued absence of any Council expression of intent to work at reducing the endless increases projected over the years. This trend is telling us that the path we are on is not leading to a good place, and something must be wrong if we can’t even pay our way with the plan of the city.

James Ridge - looking right

City manager James Ridge asks Council to come up with $500,000 for staff to handle Project Management.

“The city can’t even deliver a management plan without an extra $500,000. What are we getting for that money?
City manager James Ridge asked for an amount of $500,000 each year to cover the cost of Project Management services. The Gazette will explain what it is Ridge wants the money for and the explanation he gave council members.

“There’s no indication that I see. What are the deliverables, and where and who is the accountability lead? This is an example of one of those soft money projects that are yet another head shrinking navel gazing exercise by managers who, in my opinion, have developed the plans that they now seem to need a half a million to figure out.

“Also, despite all I have heard for decades about the great growth plans of the city, these plans have not delivered, and while the assessment growth has fallen, the costs of running the city are not falling.
City treasurer did say that $1 million in costs were cut from the budget.

“The city is falling behind on infrastructure renewal, and this just continues unabated. And Development Charges have long been a source of ongoing costs of growth to taxpayers, taking, as you say, a chunk of the assessment revenue as a hidden cost offset.

Muir making a point

Aldershot resident Tom Muir making a point at a public meeting.

“I am unable, in a reasonable time, to coherently analyze and discuss the complex details of the budget. But as a general rule, my work experience with managers is they can always come up with a spending plan that yet again tries to figure out what they are doing and why.

“That’s why I say that the only way to deal with complex situations, with thin rationales, and opaque deliverables and defined results, that entail fiscal consequences of arguable sustainability, is by simplification.

“That was my suggestion. Just tell the managers and finance that they only get a no frills target percent increase and they have to figure out how to meet the target. That’s what I thought we paid them for – to manage, not just to build empires bigger than needed. If something doesn’t get gone, so what, the world will not end.

“I didn’t note my pension increase to cry poor, but to show you what the reality is for many people who are paying the taxes you are imposing, but seemingly without any recognition of the cumulative effects over longer time periods. Many people do not get any inflation increase, making it worse. And all people more or less have to pay the same kinds of bills that you cite as impacting the city operating costs.

Gayle Cruikshank, Executive Director, seated and Kelly Stronach, Manager of Program Development: two of the xx team that make Food for Thought work day in and day out as one of the United Way funded agencies in Burlington.

Gayle Cruikshank, seated, then Executive Director of Food for Thought, and Kelly Stronach, Manager of Program Development.

Gayle Kabbash, Community Relations Manager at Food4Kids and a former Fundraiser and Community Developer at Community Living Oakville and a former Food & Logistics Specialist at Student Nutrition and a former Executive Director at Halton Food for Thought, knows a little bit about food budgets. Said on her Facebook page – “Geez- just went to pick up a few groceries and it fit in 1 bag and the bill was $75. The only meat was chicken breasts and wings. The rest was eggs, peppers, a baguette, one brick of cheddar cheese, clementines, 2 small bags of nuts, and celery salt for caesars (a must). These were purchased at a low cost grocery store. Anyone else feeling the Pain?”

Muir continues: “As well, these tax increases also have to be paid for by businesses, and many have thin margins that these tax costs just nibble away at, and they have similar bills again.

“I see no plan, no mention in the portions of the budget debate I have watched that there is anything being done to get control of these inflation-inducing increases in the percent tax increases year after year. These increases often, as I said, come with no description of a project proposal, with work plans, deliverables, responsibilities, results, and accountability arrows.

“The discussion of fiscal sustainability is, like last year, now lost in the end of the budget-making process for the year. Where is the committee of staff and council to get a handle on this exponential climb of taxes?

“Finally, my lingering concern is that citizens are wasting their time trying to get you folks to see the error of your ways, and the path you are putting the city on, by not dealing with this in a serious and visible manner.”

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

In 2011 Councillor Sharman banged away at his fellow council members and got a 0% increase in taxes – so he did once know how to be fiscally responsible.

Councillor Sharman had earlier in the month written to Muir saying “we are aware that pension income does not increase at the same pace as either inflation or the overall architecture of city finances. ‎The city is driven by long term fiscal sustainability objectives.

“That discussion is not over yet, but we are trying to figure it out.”

Indeed it is not!

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2 comments to Ward 5 Councillor tells city resident he is still trying to figure out the 4.56% planned tax increase.

  • Brian Jones

    Fixed income -yes
    Cpp % increase? Neglible
    Hospital almost or is half of increase
    Not that we need it BUT
    With region almost 3% way too high. Burlington may be the best place to live but let’s not price ourselves out. Note that staff suggedted less than vouncillors