March 2011 Progress Report

March was a very busy month as both the Capital Budget and Operating Budgets were approved by Budget and Corporate Services Committee. Council will approve the Operating Budget on April 11. Council now jumps into the Strategic Planning process. This will be equally intense and will involve extensive public input and consultation. I am very excited to be entering this phase as we establish our direction for the term and hopefully end with a more meaningful and measurable plan moving forward.As we work through this I would ask that we keep our challenges and opportunities in perspective. Burlington was again named the 3rd best City to Live in Canada by Money Sense. We simply do not have the degree of challenges that so many communities face. We have a wonderful place to live and we all want to continue to make it better.

Budget:  The Budget and Corporate Services Committee approved the Operating Budget for 2011 on April 1st after three full days of final deliberation. The City portion of property tax rate will increase by 0.9% and combined with the Regional and Education taxes, the overall tax rate will increase by about the same 0.9%. This increase represents the lowest increase in a decade. The Capital Budget was also approved in March with about $40 million in spending. I will be issuing a broader analysis of the City’s spending plans for 2011 in the next few weeks.

Strategic Plan: The process has begun and we are currently collecting feedback from the community through a web based initiative. This public exercise is focused on the Mission, Vision and Values portion of the Strategic Plan. The City is also conducting a phone survey with the appropriate scientific evaluation criteria on the community’s view of current services and service priorities. When the survey is complete, the survey will be open to the public through the City Web site. There will be additional public input activity in May and June. Presentations by stakeholders in the community have been scheduled and about 40 organizations will be providing direct formal input to Council.

INSPIRE Burlington: On April 12th I will be hosting the first INSPIRE Burlington speakers’ event: “What Makes a Great City?” featuring Christopher Hume, Toronto Star Columnist. The event is open to the public and free of charge and will be the first in a series. I am inviting visionary speakers to help us explore ideas and learn about global issues as they impact Burlington, examine solutions and investigate ways to shift our perspectives on the unique opportunities that continue to be presented to Burlington. The event will be held at the DeGroote School of Business, Ron Joyce Centre on the South Service Road. Seating is limited; register at www.burlington.ca/mayor.

Pier: Staff provided a detailed update on March 30, 2011. The update can be viewed at http://cms.burlington.ca/Page6952.aspx. The project is moving forward. There are many steps required to re-activate the process. This includes a number of site inspections and re-application for permits. In addition, the new engineers are fully engaged and a new project manager and procurement specialist will be on board by mid April. Staff is providing a detailed monthly report to Council and we will continue to monitor this project closely.

Policy Items: I remain focused on my election commitments. We are currently working on the following to meet those commitments:

  • I remain committed to the target of no more than a 10% tax increase over the term. There is significant demand for spending to improve our roads and traffic conditions and to improve our activity on infrastructure maintenance. These are priorities that need to be funded.
  • I indicated in my election platform that a service review and an organizational restructuring at City Hall are required. The City Manager is currently preparing for a re-structuring discussion with Council and I expect this discussion to take place this summer. We will also consider a service review as part of the Strategic Plan and after a review of feedback from the community through the phone survey and internet survey.
  • I am currently working on a motion to begin a full budget process review and to initiate the introduction of performance based measurement and reporting to the City. I expect these motions to be brought forward in April and hope to complete the budget review process by June of this year so that changes can be implemented for 2012. The performance based reporting program is a longer exercise and will take some time and cost to implement.
  • I am very concerned about our downtown development. I am currently working on a motion to begin a review of our downtown plans. It is very important that we have community alignment on this and move forward. I remain targeted to host a Downtown Summit in the fall of 2011.

Other Meeting and Activities in March: I attended two Public meetings on the budget as well as two Ward meetings. I also visited the Seniors’ Centre and spoke to two different Current Events groups. On March 22nd, I spoke at a Chamber of Commerce Breakfast with about 120 in attendance. The Q & A included several budget questions. 

On March 5th I spoke with Mayor Bratina at the Hamilton/ Halton Home Builders Annual Breakfast. The speech centered on the changing scope of home development in Burlington and the need for a change in process and public consultation.

A number of meetings took place regarding downtown. The Burlington Downtown Business Association has real concern about the current environment. Development has been delayed and this is impacting the downtown businesses. Taxes are increasing with increased values however the downtown activity has not changed to support these costs. I met this month with three developers regarding the current status of projects downtown and will continue to focus on our Core in the coming months.

I met with Joseph Brant Hospital officials and received an update on the Hospitals Strategic Plan. We are going to work with the Hospital to help get this message out to the public.

I also had meetings with both Joyce Savoline and Mike Wallace to discuss Randle Reef.