March 2012 Progress Report

Budget

As outlined in the previous Progress Report, on March 19, 2012 Council approved the Current Operating Budget for 2012 with an overall increase of 1.79% and a City portion increase of 3.79%.

Budget chart

The blue line in the chart above represents the annual tax increase for the City portion of the tax bill and the red bars represent the Regional portion.

As you can see from the illustration, tax increased have moved down on the City side as we work towards inflationary-type tax increases. Our goal is to keep tax increases in line with inflation.

Performance Accountability

On March 26 Council held its first Quarterly Governance meeting. These meetings have been established to allow Council to review and work with Staff on broader based strategic issues on a regular basis. This includes reviewing the status of key initiatives and objectives in the strategic plan.

The first agenda item was a review of Performance Accountability. Staff has been working to develop a new method for measuring and reporting on outcomes delivered through City Services. The idea is to move away from the approval of spending through the budget to approving activities and outcomes through the budget process.

Our City Manager, Jeff Fielding, along with several members of staff presented the process and format staff is working on. One of the first uses of this new reporting and measuring process will be the Transit Master Plan.

While Performance Accountability or Performance Measurement is not a new concept, there is limited but growing use in the public sector. It is typically implemented in very demanding circumstances when organizations are forced to work with fewer dollars.

Burlington City Council is implementing this program as part of our recognition that with slower future growth predicted for our city, we will be much better off financially, if we act sooner rather than later.

Drummond Report and Provincial Budget

Council and staff were following the Provincial Budget very closely. Several members of staff attended the pre-budget lock-up (a confidential review) and had the opportunity to review specifics with provincial finance staff. 

Pat Moyle, the Halton Region CAO, provided an overview to Regional Council as well. Most of the impact from the provincial budget is felt at the Regional level where we have some shared-cost programs with the province in health and social services.

Muncipalities are not the target of cuts in the budget. There are some areas of future concern which we will monitor. Certainly school funding reductions may put pressure on schools that are not fully utilized.

As was reported in the press, several hospital projects were cancelled or delayed, however Joseph Brant was not part of these reductions. We are pleased that the province remains committed to the redevelopment of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.

Municipalities in Ontario have faced some serious challenges in managing their budgets in a sustainable manner. We have seen cost or service downloads to the property tax base including health and social service programs.  In addition, the compensation process for public sector employees in Ontario limits what a municipality can do. The arbitration process, especially with emergency workers, Fire, Police and EMS, has resulted in regular wage increases well above inflation. These costs are difficult to manage.

In addition, to wage and salary increases, benefit and pension costs continue to escalate. The provincial budget recognized this and is for the first time, the province is looking at this process. Again, municipal pensions are governed through a provincial process and individual municipalities have limited ability to control their own costs.

I am working with LUMCO, the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario, to address these issues, which all municipalities share, in an approprriate way.

Other Items of Interest

  1. The strategy has been approved for the Community Energy Plan. These are first steps to create a long term program for energy conservation and local generation. Long term, I see this as a key economic benefit for our community as well as an important step to maintain our sustainability.
  2. We have established a Committee to work with the City of Hamilton on some key issues affecting both cities. Councillors Taylor and Craven will join me on this committee with Mayor Bratina and two Councillors from Hamilton. Initial agenda items include the Randle Reef clean-up and discussions on lift bridge accessibility.
  3. There are some discussions about the Burlington Airport taking place. Burlington has a small private airport off Appleby Line in north Burlington. The airport recently signed a long term agreement with China to provide pilot training to over 300 students annually. Although the airport is under federal jurisdiction, we are working to understand the impact the airport has on our local economy.
  4. One of the largest employers in Burlington, Fearmans Pork, announced that it had been acquired by a Canadian company this week. You may recall that Fearmans was acquired by a US-based private equity firm about a year and a half ago.  We have had discussions with Fearmans and are encouraged that the acquisition appears to be a long term plan and the company will continue to follow the current expansion plans.

Coming Up

April 21, 2012: BurlingtonGreen hosts the Community Clean Up Green Up day from 9:00 am until noon, rain or shine. Join with your fellow Burlington residents and participate in a city-wide spring cleaning! Registration will continue until noon on April 20th.  Then join me at the eco-celebration BBQ at Civic Square from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. Meet new friends, enjoy lunch, enter your chance to win great eco-prizes and visit with local eco-vendors. Bring along your used household batteries to drop off at the Raw Materials Corp Inc. booth. Button making for the kids will also be available.

June 6, 2012: 9:30 to 11:00 am – Mayor’s Open Door Session. I continue to hold drop in sessions periodically at City Hall. Please check in with reception upon your arrival at City Hall.

June 10, 2012: Car Free Sundays Burlington. Our first pilot car-free Sunday will take place in east Burlington from 2:00 to 7:00 pm.

June 12, 2012: Inspire Burlington with Chris Crowley – best-selling author of the Younger Next Year books. This event will take place at the Ron Joyce Centre, DeGroote School of Business at 7:00 pm. Watch for more detail as it becomes available.

Burlington is one of the Best Places to live!

March 21, 2012

Burlington is one of the best places to live! 

Here is a link to a short video message about this achievement. Please share it with your friends, family, and fellow Burlington citizens.

Congratulations to our community for achieving this designation in 2012.

In Our Backyard

This column appeared in the Burlington Post, March 20, 2012 and is available online.

March 20, 2012

Part of building a city is the challenge of different ideas about what shape the city is taking.

Development ideas often seem great until they are happening right next door and in our backyards. Over the past 30 years Burlington has grown significantly. Most of this growth has been in “greenfield” areas; new communities and developments built in open areas.

Growth in neighbouring communities  Oakville and Milton will continue to be this type of greenfield development for the near future, with lots of open green space still to be developed. Burlington’s future is different. Our growth will be within existing urban boundaries.

We are committed to protecting our rural area north of Dundas Street.  This is defined by greenbelt legislation and also in our city planning. Our growth will create  opportunities to create vibrant neighbourhoods across the city while we protect traditional neighbourhoods. Part of creating vibrant neighbourhoods is creating more local employment opportunities so that more residents can work in the community they live in. We will have increased density in both residential areas and employment areas.

As we work through these changes over the coming years, we will face several challenges together. How do we plan for residents that will be here in the future? What will their needs be?

How can we, as elected representatives and city officials, keep the plan in front of residents so that everyone knows which direction our community is headed in? How do we keep residents interested in planning the future of our city?

The process of planning for land use is called the Official Plan. Official Plans are formal documents done at both the city and regional level which define the layout and land use for the future. They take into account residential needs, employment needs and infrastructure needs. In this way, we define what we want our city to be in the future. The process is ongoing.

Right now Burlington is starting an update to its Official Plan to identify plans for the city through 2031. This process will take three to five years to complete.

There will be many public sessions that I invite you to attend.

In support of this process, I have invited Ken Greenberg to Burlington to speak on Wednesday, April 11 about city planning as part of the Inspire Burlington series. He is a highly-respected visionary on city planning and will share some of his ideas with us to consider as part of our Official Plan update.

I know our planning staff is excited about his visit. For anyone interested in the future of our city’s development, this is a great opportunity.

Burlington is one of the Best Places to Live! Local Matters with Mark Carr

Local Matters with Mark Carr, TV Cogeco, March 23, 2012

Mayor Rick Goldring comments on MoneySense Magazine naming Burlington the second best city to live in Canada with TV Cogeco’s Mark Carr on Local Matters.