February 2013 Progress Report

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March 7, 2013

Council and Staff have been hard at work on the City Budget for 2013. The proposed budget was approved by Budget and Corporate Services on February 28 with a tax rate increase of 4.46%  The budget will go to City Council for final approval on March 18.

Operating Budget

How we arrived at the proposed budget

The original base tax increase for 2013 was 3% plus 1% for the City’s contribution to the redevelopment of Joseph Brant Hospital. The Committee also considered several business cases from local boards and committees for additional funding. If Committee accepted all of the requests for increased funding, the overall rate would have totaled 6.5%.

The business cases:

  • The library request for staffing for the new Alton library of $462,500 in increased annual funding was approved. This was planned when the new library was approved during the last term of Council.
  • The two positions that The Burlington Performing Arts Centre(BPAC) were asking for were approved as 2 year contract positions. This is funded as a onetime expenditure and does not affect the tax rate.
  • The BPAC request for additional ongoing funding for $225,000 was not approved. However, one time funding for the same amount was approved with BPAC required to report to council in the fall outlining their future business plan. This does not affect the tax rate either.
  • The Burlington Arts Centre did not receive any additional ongoing revenue. They did receive one time funding for $100,000 to be used for necessary resources to provide visioning, strategic and implementation planning that will result in a clearly defined business model.
  • Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) did receive their full ask for additional ongoing revenue of $369,800.
  • We approved expanded transit service for a net cost of $258,000 annually that is offset by a transit fare increase that will generate $136,000 in revenue.
  • The fire department received approval to hire a industry specific mechanic for an annual total compensation cost of $112,670.
  • A corporate projects and accessibility coordinator was approved for an annual total cost of $80,400.

Some reductions were achieved through the following:

  • Reduction in annual funding for the Strategic Plan Implementation of $100,000.
  • Reduction in annual allocation to the Rail Road Crossing Reserve Fund  of $120,000.
  • Reduction in annual HR  Cost of $235,000.

Staff will be sharpening their pencils even more next year. We are all aware that there is little room for tax rate increases above inflation going forward.

The challenge for City Council is to balance tax rate increases with the need to maintain and enhance the quality of life in the city for residents now and future residents who will be employed in new companies that are attracted to Burlington.

The bottom line is that when we invest in arts and culture, we are investing in enhancing the quality of life for those of us that live here now and for future residents. In the next 20 years, Burlington wants to attract 29,000 new jobs from new and existing businesses. Leading edge companies locate their businesses in cities by considering a number of quality of life factors including access to education, health care and arts and culture.

How your tax dollars are spentWhat does a taxpayer receive - pennies

Sources of revenue

The City of Burlington total debt is about $86 million and about 9% of our revenue goes to service debt. Our total budget is $202 million of which 129 million comes from a tax levy.

2013 Proposed RevenuesWhere we finished

During this term, Council has approved a 0.9% increase for 2011 and a 3.29% increase for 2012. The 2012 tax rate increase includes a 1% tax levy for the City’s contribution to the Joseph Brant Hospital Redevelopment. My objective this term was to set a target in the range of a 10% cumulative tax rate increase over 4 years. I am pleased that we will be close to that target, if we exclude the hospital levy.  At this stage the average tax rate increase for the 3 years of this council term is 2.2% excluding the hospital levy.

The overall tax rate increase including the City portion, Halton Region, Halton Regional Police, and the hospital levy works out to 2.07%.

Having said this, the challenge does not end with approval of this budget.  We need to continue to strive for Performance Based Accountability to assure there is clear value for the property taxes. Work is being done to analyze business processes in order to streamline city services.

Of note, Burlington has the 10th lowest “property taxes as a percentage of household income” in Ontario with 3.1% of household income. The average is 3.8% with the lowest being 2.4% and the highest is 5.3%.

Capital Budget

Council approved the capital budget of $55 million, with a 10-year program (2013-2022) of $551 million. Tax supported funding accounts for roughly 50% of the 2013 budget and ten year forecast. The 10 year forecast by asset category is shown below.

Capital budget pie chart

comparison of government levels and capital budgetCitizen engagement in the Budget

As we finished our budget meetings last week, I reflected on how both Federal and Provincial government’s budget processes enables them to run at a deficit whereby municipalities are bound by the Municipal Act which prohibits deficits.

Our budget process is open and transparent. Residents can connect with elected officials easily at the local level and every day you can see where your tax dollars go. However we still need to simplify the complexity of municipal budgets.

I would like to hear your ideas about ways that we can improve the budget consultation and public engagement process to ensure more citizen input and opportunities for residents to get involved are provided. Please let me know how you would like to be involved in the City’s budget process for the future, so that we are better able to connect with residents on this very important issue.

I continue to encourage you to share any additional thoughts you have on this year’s budget.

Committee Highlights

At the Corporate Services Committee on February 27, Council voted unanimously to rename the promenade in Spencer Smith Park to the Naval Veterans’ Promenade.  The Naval Ships Memorial monument is located along this promenade. This monument is regarded as one of the twelve best War Memorials in Canada.

In the spirit of openness and transparency, I also brought forward a memo listing the activities involving the Office of the Mayor during my current term of office. Following some questions from other members of Council regarding these activities, I am providing information regarding my level of participation, the funds raised and their intended purpose

More information on both of these initiatives is available here.

Joseph Brant Hospital

The hospital had two milestone events in the last week.

On February 27, the hospital launched ‘Our New Era’ campaign with a new name – Joseph Brant Hospital – and a new look and feel that reflects the new era underway through the hospital’s expansion and redevelopment project.

On March 6, an official groundbreaking ceremony took place on the site of the first stage of the redevelopment which will include the future home of the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre.

Hospital Groundbreaking, Mar. 2013Official Plan Review

The Official Plan Review project is continuing. I encourage you to become more involved in this important process. Currently, we are at the “Conversation and Analysis” stage. More information is available online and you can sign up to receive important updates.

The Inspire Burlington presentation on February 28 with Dr. Pamela Blais focused on the financial tools that are available to municipalities and how they are used to create built form. This was a very interesting and informative presentation and I hope you have the time to watch on TV Cogeco on one of the following dates:

  • Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 1 p.m.

My comments on the presentation are available on my blog with a small video clip from Dr. Blais.

Developments in the City

There are many development projects taking place throughout the city – both large and small. For the most recent updates and studies, by ward area, visit the City’s Planning & Building Department’s website.

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