January and February are traditionally a budget period. Council addressed the Capital and Current budget as well as several other important items.
The capital budget pays for infrastructure projects in the city. Council approved the capital budget for 2012 at about $45 million. Expenditures on roadways will be close to $23 million. In general, the City has an approximate $520 million ten-year plan. About half of this amount, $260 million, is allocated for
The current budget pays for city services and programs – the on-going costs of operation. The current budget for 2012 was approved at the Budget and Corporate Services Committee on March 1 and will go to Council for approval on March 19. The recommended budget results in an increase in the local portion of 3.29% and an increase in the overall tax bill of 1.79%, including the region and education
The increase includes an increased contribution to the hospital of $1.2 million and an increase in infrastructure spending of about $850,000 with much of this focused on the shave and pave road program. Over the last two years the total local increase stands at 4.22% on a compound basis. Excluding the hospital, the tax increase in 2012 is about 2.25%.
With this capital budget, the city will be issuing about $7.7 million in debentures while we will retire just over $9.0 million in debentures during the fiscal year. The net result is a marginally reduced debt level.
We have had a regular debate about infrastructure spending at council. Each year we are told that we are under spending by about $17 million and it is estimated that the city is several hundred million dollars behind on infrastructure renewal. To fully fund this infrastructure gap, we would have to increase the tax levy by about 14%. This gap is not based on specific need, but on a formula that sets 2% of all assets aside.
Staff is currently working on a detailed asset assessment project. This project will itemize all the city’s assets and lay out a specific maintenance/replacement scenario. I believe that Council is committed to focusing on an effective infrastructure renewal program based on a specific plan to maintain our assets. There will be considerable work done on this in 2012.
Senior Government Support
I expect that senior levels of government will initiate an updated stimulus/infrastructure program during the next 18 – 24 months. Our objective is to have our asset assessment work completed and have infrastructure projects identified and prioritized to take advantage of this potential opportunity.
Fire Department and Safety
Council remains committed to our Fire Department and has significantly invested in fire safety. Council approved $1.0 million in spending for safety equipment in January, and gave the go ahead to update Fire Stations #1 and #4. The total investment over three years is about $7.0 million. The City provides outstanding Fire services through the great efforts of our Fire Department.
Council continues to work towards a heritage policy that makes sense for our community. In February Council received a report on the November Heritage Workshop that was attended by several hundred residents. All of Council attended as observers.
Appropriately protecting heritage property has been an issue of substantial discussion at council and in the community. I am very pleased that Council has directed Heritage Burlington (a citizen’s advisory committee to Council) to look at this issue, consult with key stakeholders and the broader community, and report back to Council before July 1. The desired outcome is for some clarity, understanding and alignment around key issues including the designation of properties, the municipal register, property rights and values, along with a collective vision of maintaining our built heritage. As time passes, our history and heritage become even more important. We need a strategy to protect and enhance our built heritage.
Drury Lane Pedestrian Bridge
Council approved a $380,000 repair of the Drury Lane Pedestrian Bridge which provides access for the Glenwood School Drive community over the CN rails near Fairview and Drury Lane. The bridge has been in place since 1971. It was closed unexpectedly before Christmas due to safety concerns. A longer-term consideration for bridge replacement will have to be evaluated and considered in five years.
Statistics Canada has released its first set of information based on the 2011 census. Burlington reported a population of 175,779, an increase of 6.9% from 2006. During this same period, the number of dwellings increased by 8.9% to 68,779. This reflects the increasing number of single person households in Burlington. Burlington is the 13th largest city in Ontario and the 28th largest in Canada.
Our neighbours in Oakville experienced a population growth of 10.2% to 182,520 and Milton’s population increased by 56.5% to 84,362. The province of Ontario Places to Grow Plan projects that Milton and Oakville will grow to over 230,000 by 2031 while Burlington is projected to reach about 193,000.
As more data becomes available from Statistics Canada we will be able to better understand the demographic changes taking place in our community.
King Road Closure
King Road will be closed for up to three weeks this spring to allow the endangered Jefferson Salamander to migrate. King Road will be closed from approximately 1865 King Road to Mountain Brow Road in March/April
In April 2011, city staff implemented a voluntary road closure for this section of King Road as an interim measure to address the identified issues with the Jefferson Salamander. At the request of the City of Burlington, Conservation Halton undertook a road mortality survey of the salamanders during this time period which confirmed that the road closure during migration periods is positively impacting the Jefferson Salamander population.
On Sunday February 26, VIA Train #92 derailed near the King Road crossing in Aldershot killing three VIA employees. The Burlington Fire Department, Halton Police and Emergency Services responded immediately to safely evacuate some 40 passengers from the derailed rail cars. Burlington Transit provided warming buses for triage and support for injured passengers who were sent to a number of local hospitals. Roads and Parks Maintenance staff, as well as building officials from the city also assisted, as did many local volunteers with the Red Cross.
We should all be proud of the members of our emergency services teams that provided the urgent help required by the train passengers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost in this tragedy, while our thanks and appreciation go out to our emergency services staff.
March / April
On March 26 we will have our first quarterly Special Council meeting. These meetings have been established to provide Council a forum to meet in a Board of Directors context and look at the overall performance of city operations and provide time to focus on our strategic objectives and opportunities. This will be a public committee session.
I will be hosting a sub-committee meeting of Large Urban Mayor Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) in March. Through this forum I am working with other Ontario mayors to improve our communications and speak with a single voice to Queen’s Park and Ottawa on issues that are of common concern. Our objective is to ensure that municipalities are heard at senior levels of government with a united voice, as we highlight our priorities and concerns.
Transit Master Plan
The Transit Master Plan is looking at the needs of our community into the future. Burlington Transit has hosted several public meetings regarding the Transit Master Plan and more information will be coming forward as the plan is updated with community input. Transit is very important for the future of our community. Many rely on transit to get around the Burlington – to live, work and play
Transit is also important to our local businesses which need to have transit available to attract employees to their place of work and for customers to access with convenience. Our future prosperity will continue to require an ever improving transit service. We saw a significant transit ridership increase in 2011 (7%) and hope to continue to build on this growth.
I’m very pleased to announce that we have booked our first two Inspire Burlington events for 2012. On April 11, at 7:00 pm in the Studio Theatre of The Burlington Performing Arts Centre we present Ken Greenberg – architect, urban designer, teacher, writer, former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City of Toronto, and Principal of Greenberg Consultants. For over three decades Ken has played a pivotal role in public and private assignments in urban settings throughout North America and Europe, focusing on the rejuvenation of downtowns, waterfronts, neighborhoods and on campus master planning, regional growth management, and new community planning. Ken’s topic will be “City Building: A New Convergence”. As the City is currently in an Official Plan review, Ken’s keynote will be very topical and relevant to Burlington.
Scheduled for June 12, at the Ron Joyce Centre, DeGroote School of Business, we are pleased to present wellness speaker Christopher Crowley, author, speaker and Wall Street Litigator. Chris is the co-author of the best selling Younger Next Year series of books and lectures on the Revolution in Aging. Chris delivers his message with a great sense of humour and practical advice that I know will be meaningful to all who attend. His talk is entitled “How to Live Like You Are 50 and Until 80 and Beyond”