It was great to hear from the seven delegates who attended the Committee of the Whole – Budget meeting Thursday (Feb. 7) morning to offer their feedback on the 2019 capital and operating budgets.
At Monday’s general Committee of the Whole meeting, we had Delegate James Sisson, who urged committee and council to maintain a city tax increase below 5 per cent.
The city is currently proposing a city tax increase of 3.99 per cent for the 2019 operating budget – I am looking to get this budget under 3 per cent for the city portion without compromising what I believe are city-essential services.
Earlier this month, city staff presented us with an overview of this year’s operating and capital budgets.
City staff has proposed a $1.67 million operating budget for 2019 with a city tax increase of 3.99 per cent (1.97 per cent to maintain services, 1.25 per cent for infrastructure renewal, and 0.77 per cent for service enhancements). When you combine the estimated regional and education tax rates for 2019, the increase for a Burlington homeowner will be 2.45 per cent — so, if you own a $500,000 home, you would be paying an additional $99.95 per year, or $1.92 per week.
Take a look at the 2019 operating budget book for a breakdown and more details here: Proposed-Operating-Budget-Book-web
The proposed 2019 capital budget, which also sets out a 10-year forecast, is $96.8 million with a 10-year proposed total of $819.3 million. Take a look at the 2019 capital budget book for a breakdown and more details here: Proposed-2019-Capital-Budget-and-2020-2028-Forecast-web
Remember, there is the Telephone Town Hall on Budget I am hosting tonight (Feb. 7), starting at 7:30. Residents can call in to 1-800-837-8058 to join in and have their say.
There’s also an in-person Budget Town Hall I am also hosting Monday, Feb. 11 at Burlington Central Arena from 2-3:30 p.m.
Be sure to also check the Upcoming Key 2019 Budget Dates.
1. Resident Gary Scobie – city tax increase/hydro reserve
- Wanted the proposed city-tax increase of 3.99 per cent to stay below 3 per cent
- Said he learned the hydro reserve is created from hydro dividends and interest that is payable to residents. He is in favour of funding the reduction of the city’s infrastructure budget and suggested council consider taking another $2 million per year from the hydro reserve to reduce the tax levy for Joseph Brant Hospital that “was supposed to disappear.”
2. Resident Jim Thurston – sidewalk access to Brant Hills Community Centre
- Hoped council would fund the installation of sidewalk access to Brant Hills Community Centre, agreeing with the suggestion from Committee Chair and Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns that the best location would be off of Brant Street.
3. Jim Young, Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee (BSAC) – sidewalk at BHCC and free transit fares for seniors
- Echoed the importance of installing sidewalk access to Brant Hills Community Centre, as well as at other facilities local seniors use in an effort to encourage seniors to use facilities outside of dedicated seniors centres and lessen the strain on resources there.
- Suggested the way to fill empty buses in the city was by providing free transit for seniors during off-peak hours (10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.), Monday and Friday, saying, “It would provide a dignified alternative to seniors who no longer drive and may suffer from social isolation, but it would also help improve the health and well-being of our seniors. The best way to get people out of cars and onto transit is by making transit the more popular option.”
- Also said “Transit should be considered as a service and not a business operation.”
- I asked Jim for his thoughts about free fare on Mondays, similar to Oakville, and he said BSAC believed free transit on off-peak hours, Monday-Friday, would be more useful for seniors, as opposed to encouraging ridership on one day a week.
- Chair Kearns asked Jim of the three options in a similar cost-frame – free full-day transit on Mondays to sync with Oakville Transit, free during off-peak hours Monday-Friday, or more paratransit buses – which delivers the best value? To which, he again responded the off-peak free transit option.
4. Greg DeLazzari, board treasurer, Museums of Burlington – new Joseph Brant Museum
- Spoke on the business case for the new 13,000-square-foot Joseph Brant Museum hopefully set to open in July 2019. The Board is asking for one-time funding of $58K and additional $150K relating to staffing, including a part-time janitor and part-time exhibitors and educators, as well as exhibit coordinators.
- “We don’t want to be a failure and make the mistakes that have been done historically, previously,” he said.
- I asked Greg if the exhibit coordinator/educator position could be paid out of revenue from exhibits and he said that would be the hope eventually, but there would be a growth curve as the museum opened.
- Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna asked if staff who worked at the previous Joseph Brant Museum building couldn’t be used to fill these positions and if there was any money from the funding of construction that could be used to pay these new staff? Greg responded the new building is fundamentally different from the previous two historical buildings (Joseph Brant and Ireland House museums).
- “The new facility will house new exhibits, and offer more than the original Joseph Brant Museum did. To stay at the same staffing levels would be a mistake. We’re being pretty judicious asking for a couple of part-time staff. We need more people to run it and manage it.”
- Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith asked if there was a business plan for the revenue-generating exhibits? Museums Director Barbara Teatero said there are reports and research they have done and can provide these to committee. She also gave an example of a travelling exhibit in Kitchener, Ont. (similar to what the new museum would bring in) that brought forward about $90,000 in net revenue.
- Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman asked if it was correct that the situation was one of Museums of Burlington having a brand new business model that was independent of the existing business model and now it was asking the city for more funding to assist the new model – Teatero and DeLazzari agreed.
5. Doug Brown, chair, Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST) – transit
- Noted the new council seemed to have a positive outlook on transit and he was pleased to see in the proposed 2019 budget there was an increase to transit in the operating budget and progressive increases including the number of buses, supporting infrastructure, etc., over the next 10 years in the capital budget.
- “When it comes to fixing transit, the problem has not been staff, it has been inadequate resources. So, we are currently seeing a turnaround. We have a long way to go, but we’re pleased to be on this journey. We’re pleased with budget improvements for transit and that they’re gradual. We’re viewing this in the long-term,” he said.
- Noted BFAST was a little concerned about possible cuts to the proposed transit gains in order to get the city increase under 3 per cent – “Given that transit is so poorly funded, we hope the transit funding in the budget stays.”
- Regarding free transit options, Doug said BFAST supported any measures that would get people on buses – “We would like to see council at some point have a fulsome discussion on the fare structure and look at issues of inaffordability, etc. The cash fare of $3.50 is pretty brutal.”
- BFAST will once again be hosting their annual transit forum, looking at a May 4 date.
- Here is a PDF of BFAST’s presentation to budget committee.
6/7. Residents Melissa Robillard and Kimberley Picken – Brant Hills splash pad
- Noted there was a growing need for a splash pad in the Brant Hills community within walking distance as the number of young families in the area was increasing and the Mountainside splash pad wasn’t accommodating their demand – it has a barrier where the public has to line up to use, if it’s at capacity, which is frequent.
- Suggested the optimal splash pad didn’t need to be huge, but could include shower and bucket models.
- Robillard suggested washroom facilities on site would also be a good idea, but said she rather have a splash pad with no change rooms rather than no splash pad at all.