Council is in the middle of capital and operating budget discussions. Staff’s initial proposed operating budget called for a 3.99% tax increase. I am working with my council colleagues to get that below 3% while investing in transit, infrastructure, seniors programming, bylaw enforcement and more.
As the 2019 Budget process continues, Burlington City Council brings forward their Budget Action Requests (BARs), proposed changes, for the proposed Capital and Operating Budgets. At the all-day Committee of the Whole (COW) – Budget Feb. 21 meeting, we brought forward our BARs for the 2019-2028 proposed Capital Budget and Forecast. In addition, city staff came back with reports on 2019 budget engagement and responses to questions Burlington Council had asked of them at previous budget meetings.
CAPITAL BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
- reduction to the proposed capital budget of $680,000 by deferring the Elgin Street Promenade to 2020 when final agreements are in place and providing more time to seek upper level government funding;
- reduction to the proposed capital budget from $314,000 to $150,000 to reflect less costly alternatives to achieve pedestrian safety at Brant and Elgin;
- reduction to the proposed capital budget by $50,000 for a fire drone and $35,000 for a bylaw vehicle, subject to further review during operation budget discussions;
- approval of a splash pad at Brant Hills park for $550,000 for installation in summer 2020, paid for from the Parkland Dedication Reserve Fund.
- add $200,000 in outside planning staff to assist with surge in workload, paid from planning reserve fund (no tax impact
The above changes reduce the tax impact by a little over 0.6%.
OPERATING BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
Additional items that will be discussed during the operating budget at Committee of the Whole Tuesday (Feb. 26), and if necessary Thursday (Feb. 28), include:
- Staff initiated reductions to the corporate (city manager’s) budget of $235,000, vacancy rebate elimination of $100,000 (rebates no longer exist), minor adjustments reflecting revenues from the region for council budgets of $40,983, reduction of $100,000 for Randle Reef (can be handled through one time funding instead of base budget) and savings to sidewalk budget of $21,994;
- Reduce provision to the Vehicle Depreciation reserve fund from $400,000 to $300,000;
- Remove $130,000 of Randle Reef funding from the base and provide remaining allocations from one-time funding;
- increase maintenance of BurlOak Park ($67,000);
- Add $445,000 in one time funding for tree management and planting;
- Add one time funding of $208,000 for new staff at Joseph Brant Museum, with expectations for revised budget for 2020 based on anticipated revenue from events to offset staff costs;
- Add additional bylaw officer ($111,000) and seniors program staff ($114,000) paid for from Human Resources surplus ($1.1 million in 2018);
- Add outside contracted planning staff to handle increased work load, paid from planning reserve fee (no tax impact);
- Assign $600,000 for studies not yet undertaken for the Official Plan review (eg. Housing Strategy), from the policy initiatives reserve (no tax impact);
- Add free transit for seniors Monday to Friday off peak hours, and potentially free all day Monday (one year pilot project from reserves, no tax impact); and
- increase arts and culture grant funding by $25,000.
- Direct the City Manager to review city operations and services, accountable to council and the community’s priorities while finding budget efficiencies;
- revise criteria for urban dog parks and report back on potential locations;
- report back on efforts to address congestion and traffic flow, including traffic light technology by September 2019;
- explore options for enhanced pedestrian safety along James St between Brant and Martha; and
- conduct a Flood Mitigation 101 workshop to explore work to date as well as tree canopy protection, sustainable and low impact development guidelines, greenhouse gas reductions and more.
A complete list of proposed staff directions and changes from council to the capital and operating budgets are captured in the consolidated “Budget Action Request” form (links provided below).
2019 Budget Engagement Results:
This year, we provided several different ways to engage citizens and help them understand the 2019 operating and capital budgets in user-friendly ways, including the City of Burlington’s website, social media, video, online budget visual tool, surveys, email feedback and telephone and in-person town halls.
- The Burlington Basics video, which cost about $2,400 to produce, outlined how our City develops its budget and where taxpayer dollars go, was launched in January on the dedicated www.burlington.ca/budget page and www.getinvolvedburlington.ca (the City’s online engagement webpage) and viewed 120 times through the Vimeo player, and 1,743 views on Facebook (since Jan. 17). In total, the video reached 2,003 Facebook users, received 45 engagements (comments) and was shared 15 times. On Twitter (through a YouTube link), it 9 retweets, 8 likes and 62 video views through YouTube;
- The Burlington Open Budget data visualization tool allowed residents to view the City’s 2019 proposed budget data in an intuitive and illustrative form;
- Get Involved Burlington Website is the City’s new online engagement webpage that allows residents and business owners to give their ideas and feedback on Burlington issues. For the 2019 proposed budget, people could: Take a “Quick Poll”, Post a question and receive an answer related the 2019 proposed budget, Provide their feedback, View the 2019 budget timeline, View the “Budget Basics” video, and Access Burlington Open Budget — for more details, click the Get Involved Burlington Website Budget Results link;
- I hosted two Town Hall, one by phone (Feb. 7) and another in-person (Feb. 11), which were well-received and the public learned about and discussed the proposed budget priorities with myself and senior City staff. The telephone town hall was facilitated by an external company at a cost of $4,600. For the telephone town hall, phone numbers were randomly selected and the public could also register their phone number for participation. Participants were asked polling questions similar to those on the Get Involved Burlington webpage — for more details click the Mayor’s 2019 Budget – Telephone Town Hall Results and Mayor’s 2019 Budget – In-person Town Hall Results links;
- Following the telephone town hall, the City also received feedback from residents through email that Council had a chance to take a look at. As Mayor, those comments helped me in recognizing some of the areas of concern and what was important to you in our budget this year. To view the comments in the 2019 Budget – Emailed Feedback, click the link;
- In addition to the in-person town hall I hosted, finance staff from the City also attended ward meetings hosted by your ward councillors at Brant Hills Community Centre (Ward 3 – Jan. 31), Conservation Halton (Wards 3 and 6 – Feb. 7), NUVO Network (Ward 1 – Feb. 13), and Haber Community Centre (Ward 6 – Feb. 13); and
- An advertisement in the Burlington Post newspaper at an approximate cost of $400, which is comparable to advertising costs from previous years.
You can view the all the budget engagement results in more detail by clicking the 2019 Budget Engagement Results link.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide their feedback and input through the telephone and in-person town halls, by email, online, through social media channels and the other avenues the City of Burlington supplied to residents. Your input is important and makes a difference in our discussions at Committee and Council meetings.
2019 Capital Budget Action Requests
The following are the BAR motions that were carried by the COW – Budget Committee for final approval at Monday’s (Feb. 25) Council Meeting. For a complete list of the 2019 Capital Budget Action Requests or to view the 2019 Capital Budget Book, click the links.
- Motion carries to reduce the curb radius at that turn to a downtown standard, around 10 metres, and reduce the cost of the project from $314,000 to $150,000.
- Motion carries to defer the $680,000 project to the 2020 Capital Budget and direct city staff to seek upper levels of government funding similar to the other phases of the project.
PARKS AND OPEN SPACE
- Motion carries to approve in 2019 Capital Budget use of the Park Dedication Reserve Fund to cover $550,000 cost of the project and construction to start in 2020 with an opening target of summer 2020.
- Motion carries to maintain the Enterprise System (ERP) infrastructure renewal/service improvements project at $6.056 million and direct staff to delay the award of a public RFP (Request For Proposal) subject to the Burlington Council’s review of the ERP process as a whole in April. ERP deals with Finance and Human Resource applications.
2019 Operating Budget Action Requests
The COW – Budget Committee will be meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 26) to go over the Budget Action Requests and staff directions for the 2019 Proposed Operating Budget. The motions that are carried from that meeting will head for final approval at the next scheduled Council meeting. To view each of the 2019 Operating Budget Action Requests or to view the 2019 Operating Budget Book, click the links.
Once again, I was delighted to be working with this council in this process. There was a very respectful and thoughtful discussion during the Committee meeting on Thursday (Feb. 21) – and even with differences of opinions, we went through this process and discussion well. As I have mentioned previously, I am looking to get this budget under 3 per cent for the city portion without compromising what I believe are city-essential services.
3 thoughts on “Highlights from the Burlington 2019 Proposed Capital and Operating Budgets”
Why exactly is a by-law officer drawing a six-figure income? Is there an inherent risk to their safety? What about the disastrous state of Plains Road which rattles the bones of anyone traversing it? Why on Earth should other levels of government fund the Elgin Promenade in Burlington? Pay for what you want Burlington, or stop wanting it.
Charlie Schwartz’s idea of using the Hydro Reserve for the greater good is brilliant. How about transit improvement, which is completely unmentioned above. Better coverage, improved frequency and enhanced rush hour service are not going to materialize from thin air. Given that seniors already save almost 50% on the transit fare, why EXACTLY do they deserve a FREE RIDE? For voting for tax policies that led to underfunded service for decades now? A BIG NO to that. Transit is already MORE THAN AFFORDABLE for seniors. Let’s get people to actually PAY for the services they’re using. We DO NOT NEED ANYMORE FREE RIDES.
As it is the first budget for the new council getting it down to 2,99% is a good start. Can you dig deeper and really impress the seniors and homeowners who are on fixed incomes?
I agree with Bruce. If council was really interested in impressing us they would use the Hydro Reserve Fund for other than “special interest groups” such as the millions wasted on the wave break construction at the LaSalle Marina which benefits what % of our population? Of course I doubt they would do something constructive like Oakville did which benefitted ALL their taxpayers when their Hydro Reserve went toward construction of a new hospital contrary to what we’ve been forced to do through imposed taxation for what seems forever.