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City of Burlington Shares 2024 Ontario Pre-Budget Submission with Province

COB 2024 Ontario Pre-Budget Submission - TW

Yesterday, I sent a letter to Minister of Finance, the Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy on behalf of the City of Burlington presenting the Province with our 2024 Ontario pre-budget submission. You can view a copy of the letter below or through this link here: Burlington Mayor Letter to Minister Bethlenfalvy 2024 Pre-Budget Submission Jan. 31, 2024.

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January 31, 2024

Dear Minister Bethlenfalvy,

On behalf of the City of Burlington I am pleased to present you with our 2024 Provincial Pre-Budget submission, for your consideration as you prepare the Province of Ontario’s 2024 Budget. We are extremely grateful for the continued financial supports provided by the Province of Ontario to the City of Burlington and our residents.

Residents throughout Ontario are struggling with rising costs and are finding it difficult to make ends meet. During our 2024 Budget deliberations we heard from a record number of delegations about the significant economic challenges they are facing. Burlington’s 2024 Budget was approved in November and is considered a “needs-to have” budget that focuses on essentials, frontline services, and planning for growth. As you are aware governments are not immune to inflation, and the construction price index has gone up 41% since 2017. We can’t continue to fund what communities need with property taxes alone. Municipalities need a new deal with both the provincial and federal governments. The City is working with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and Ontario’s Big City Mayors Caucus to provide suggestions.

In January City Council approved Burlington’s Plan from Vision to Focus 2022-2026 – the City of Burlington’s four-year work plan. This work plan details key goals and actions required to move priorities forward during this term of Council. Over the next four years City resources and efforts will focus on:

  1. Designing and delivering complete communities
  2. Providing the best services and experiences
  3. Protecting and improving the natural environment and taking action on climate change
  4. Driving organizational performance

Together with our commitment to facilitate the construction of 29,000 more homes, we are committed to building complete communities in Burlington where people in all stages of life, from all incomes and with different needs, want to live over the next seven generations with a high quality of life. A community that is safe, inclusive, diverse, and connected; environmentally sustainable; has housing choice and affordability; offers services, shops, community amenities, jobs, and parks within walking distance; and is easy to get around with multiple transportation options.

As we look to the future, we hope that the Province of Ontario will support us with this important work. I look forward to our continued partnership.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
City of Burlington

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A New Deal – a New Provincial-Municipal Fiscal Relationship

Municipalities across Ontario, including Burlington are being faced with significant financial and service delivery pressures resulting from the housing crisis, inflation, and climate change impacts. We are seeing encampments in cities throughout the province. The demand at local food banks is growing as people struggle to pay their mortgages. Our residents are struggling to make ends meet and so are we.

Municipalities are also responsible for building and maintaining 60 per cent of the public infrastructure that supports our economy and quality of life. Residents count on us to provide roads in a state of good repair, efficient transit systems, quality recreational facilities, bike paths and trails and so much more. With limited revenue generating options, the burden of maintaining municipal infrastructure to create all-inclusive, thriving, vibrant, healthy, connected, and safe communities is significant. The economic impacts of inflation and rising industry costs have limited the City’s ability to adequately address planned renewal needs over the last year, as the City’s dedicated infrastructure levy has been eroded substantially by inflation pressures. Though inflation is beginning to decline from recent peaks, inflation pressures continue to remain high.

Municipal revenues do not grow with the economy or inflation, and we rely heavily on property taxes, which do not grow with the economy or inflation.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic we saw the effectiveness of all levels of government coming together to work towards a common goal. We call on the Province of Ontario for this same type of collaborative approach towards this fiscal crisis. In December Halton Region unanimously supported a resolution calling for A New Deal for Halton Region. Burlington City Council also unanimously supported the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s Call to Action for a Social and Economic Prosperity Review. Now is the time for a province-wide conversation where municipalities and the province come together to promote the stability and sustainability of municipal finances province-wide.

Building More Homes

The City of Burlington is committed to helping enable the construction of more homes in our City and throughout the province. We understand the critical need to bring new housing supply, especially affordable units, to the marketplace. Our council remains absolutely committed to supporting the creation of more housing options that meet the needs of current and future residents, at all stages of their life and that are attainable at all income levels and achieving our housing target of 29,000 homes.

We were very pleased to hear the Premier’s announcement that any undistributed funds in the Building Faster Fund would be made available to municipalities, through an application based process, to build more housing-enabling infrastructure.

We also appreciate Minister Calandra’s announcement to engage with municipalities on the impacts of the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 and the ability for municipalities to fund development-related infrastructure. We look forward to the opportunity to work together on alternatives that will provide new avenues for municipalities to pay for growth.

We continue to ask that the criteria to qualify for the initial distribution of the Building Faster Fund be reconsidered and changed to approvals – something which municipalities are directly responsible for, not foundations, which we do not have control over.

Growth never fully pays for growth, but the legislative changes in the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 will significantly impact our ability to fund things like community centres, transit, libraries, and parks. In Burlington, the total development charge (DC) and community benefits charge revenue loss resulting from changes in More Homes Build Faster Act, 2022 legislation will be approximately $36.6 million. As the City conveyed in our submission to the posting on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO 019-6172), the changes in this legislation, will have significant and broad sweeping consequences to municipal finances.

We ask the Province provide clarity on when the changes related to the devolution of planning from Halton Region to the local municipalities will come into effect. We also ask for consideration of several additional changes to this legislation:

  • Roll back the phase in of development charges. The proposed phase-in of development charges, and a bylaw update every 10 years defers and simultaneously reduces collection of DC revenue. This creates a funding gap between DC collection and timing of capital works. The delay/reduction in collection of DCs also defers capital projects as the required financing will take longer to materialize. The City will need to look to alternate funding sources such as the tax base and debt financing. This causes an inequity between current and future residents of Burlington and is contrary to the principle of growth pays for growth.
  • Include studies in the DC study. The studies support the building of key growth-related infrastructure and are in many cases part of the overall project cost. Without a study the project cannot proceed. As mentioned above not including studies puts increased pressure on the existing property tax base to supplement the capital costs of studies that are not being recovered from DCs, which again is contrary to the principle of growth pays for growth.

As Burlington gears up to meet its ambitious target of 29,000 housing units by 2031, a pivotal enabler lies in reimagining our development planning and building permit application processes. In our 2024 budget City Council committed $2 M to further streamline our development workflows using modern technology. This is not just about expediency; it’s about leveraging digital capabilities to ensure applications are processed with unmatched accuracy and efficiency. By embracing this transformation, we’re not only reinforcing our commitment to timely housing delivery but also positioning Burlington as an agile, forward-thinking municipality. This investment, will ensure we are better equipped to meet our housing target, promote sustainable growth, and demonstrate our dedication to operational excellence.

Council also committed to the creation of a new Pipeline to Permit Standing Committee, the first of its kind in Ontario, that brings together members of the development and housing sectors, City Council, staff and residents to get shovels in the ground faster.

Infrastructure plays a key role in Ontario’s economy and is a key factor in determining where people choose to live, and where businesses choose to invest. It also plays a key part in designing and delivering complete communities. Delivery of water/wastewater capacity in a timely and cost-effective manner remains one of our largest impediments to delivery of more homes built faster. We will not be able to meet our housing targets without provincial and federal government funding for hard infrastructure. We look forward to the details of the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund, announced by Minister Surma earlier this month.

Regional Review

The Mayor and members of Burlington City Council appeared at a Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy hearing on regional governance. The City of Burlington, together with the Halton Region and the Towns of Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills have initiated a service review to determine opportunities to streamline and optimize services to eliminate unnecessary duplication at the regional and local levels. A working group has been formed to support efforts to streamline, optimize and determine the “home of best fit” for services provided by the Region of Halton and the local Halton municipalities of Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, and Oakville.

We ask the Province to set out a clear process, complete with timelines and Provincial directions for enabling changes to how Halton Region and the area municipalities deliver services to meet the housing target of 1.5 M homes by 2031.

Public Transit Investments

In Burlington transit ridership in 2023 was up 14% from 2019. Burlington City Council unanimously approved implementing free transit for seniors all day, every day and free transit for youth (aged 13-19) in the evenings (after 6 p.m.) and on weekends. Staff was also directed to investigate the impacts of offering free transit for everyone and report back to Council in 2024. Getting more people on buses, is better for our environment, creates an opportunity for more social connections, and reduces the number of cars on city streets leading to less congestion.

The Dedicated Public Transit Fund (DPTF) provides flexible funding for transit systems through gas tax revenues. Since 2007, the fund has received 2 cents/liter of gasoline sales. It is a valuable, stable funding tool for transit system finances, as it supports capital and operating costs. We are grateful to the Province for topping up the DPTF for the past two years to address reduced gasoline sales. Unfortunately, the top-ups did not factor in recent rapid inflation, which has significantly devalued the total funding envelope. Adjusting for inflation using the CPI, 2 cents today has the purchasing power of only 1.4 cents compared to 2007. We encourage the Province to consider adjusting this funding for inflation.

Creating a Low Carbon Future

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. The way in which governments confront this challenge over the coming decade will determine whether we have a safe and sustainable world, for now and into the future.

We applaud the Province’s investments in greening the auto sector, with funding dedicated to developing the production of the EV batteries in Ontario. In 2023, the City of Burlington updated its Green Fleet Strategy. The City has started transition to lower-carbon zero emissions alternatives for our fleet. Currently, 11% of the City’s 353 vehicle fleet uses electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle technology. In 2024, we will see our first electric bus introduced to the Burlington Transit fleet.

Our vision on climate action cannot be achieved alone – it requires commitment and collaboration from all levels of government. To help advance the actions outlined in the City’s Climate Action Plan and to help increase the number of public EV chargers the City of Burlington call on the Province to extend the ChargeON program to larger municipalities throughout Ontario.

Lack of access to home charging is perceived as one of the most significant barriers to higher EV uptake in Burlington and one of the main ownership challenges that EV owners face. Strengthening “EV Ready” requirements as well as tax incentives and grants for the installation of charging infrastructure in new developments will avoid the need for expensive future retrofits.

Programs to help support the purchase of alternatively fueled municipal fleet vehicles, will also accelerate the greening of municipal fleets.

Supporting Local Economies

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and will play a vital role in Ontario’s economic recovery. From traditional main street small businesses to local manufacturing, the economic health and viability of these establishments directly impact the overall well-being of the local economy. It is imperative that all levels of government remain responsive to the needs of the business community as recovery unfolds. We encourage the Province to continue to implement policies that reduce red tape and create an environment that fosters growth and makes it easier to do business in Ontario.

Burlington’s Recommendations

  1. A New Deal – a New Provincial-Municipal Fiscal Relationship
  2. An opportunity to work together on alternatives that will provide new avenues for municipalities to pay for growth.
  3. The criteria to qualify for the initial distribution of the Building Faster Fund is changed to approvals issued.
  4. We ask the Province for immediate action to devolve planning from Halton Region to the local municipalities will come into effect.
  5. Roll back the phase in of development charges.
  6. Include studies in the DC study.
  7. We ask the Province to set out a clear process, complete with timelines and Provincial directions for enabling changes to how Halton Region and the area municipalities deliver services to meet the housing target of 1.5 M homes by 2031.
  8. Dedicated Public Transit Fund (DPTF) is adjusted for inflation.
  9. Extend the ChargeON program to larger municipalities throughout Ontario.
  10. Incentives and/or grants for the installation of charging infrastructure in new developments.
  11. Programs to help support the purchase of alternatively fueled municipal fleet vehicles.
  12. Policies that reduce red tape and create an environment that fosters growth and makes it easier to do business in Ontario.

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A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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