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Finding Municipal Budget Efficiencies


Today, I distributed a media release that spoke to the City of Burlington’s commitment to finding efficiencies in our budget and controlling our spending. You can read the full release here — Statement from the Mayor – May 28.

While the government of the Province of Ontario continues to look for ways to reduce their deficit and control their debt, we have already been busy doing our part to run lean and minimize waste.

Unlike provincial and federal governments, municipalities cannot run a deficit. We must live within our means each year, so we do an annual budget review where we constantly look for efficiencies. Municipalities also have provincially established limits on the amount of debt we can incur. The amount of debt charges and other liabilities is capped at 25% of our own revenues.

Burlington has established our own self-imposed debt policy limit which is half the provincial limit, at 12.5%. We currently sit below even that limit, at 10.3%.

It is therefore no surprise that as part of Halton Region, we enjoy a AAA credit rating.

As I said in my media release, the 2019 budget we recently passed saw the lowest tax increase at the city level in eight years. A line by line review at the senior management level resulted in a budget reduction of $1.15M, with City Council trimming an additional $1.6M. At the same time, we still found ways to invest in our city’s infrastructure, local transit, tree planting and community services.

We also have $106M in reserve funds so that we can account for unexpected costs without raising taxes.

In 2015, the City of Burlington introduced Service-Based Budgeting, whereby efficiencies are sought via line-by-line reviews and ongoing evaluation of business processes. Since 2017, a total of $4.5M in savings have been found without impacting service delivery.

Present City Council already initiated a staff direction in recent months to undertake a detailed, multi-year service review process which will result in sustainable operational efficiencies and annual net budget savings.

As you can see, before any request to audit for efficiencies was suggested by the Province (offering up access to over $7M in funding to accomplish it) we are already in the process of doing it with our own internal resources.

Speaking of efficiencies, we provide services to Milton for animal control, fire dispatch to Oakville and Halton Hills, and are part of the Halton co-operative purchasing group to leverage buying efficiencies.

We have one of the highest tax collection rates in all of Ontario.

And even though it’s a provincial responsibility, we have a financial plan that started in 2010 to help fund our local hospital to the tune of $60M over 25 years.

We have a 20-year asset management plan to address the backlog of infrastructure needs and get us to a place of financial sustainability in keeping our infrastructure in a state of good repair.

We balance our books, live within our means, watch every line, and constantly look for efficiencies.

They’re mandatory skills in running a municipality, and we’d be happy to share our best practices with the Province.

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2 thoughts on “Finding Municipal Budget Efficiencies”

  1. I am proud how well Burlington is trying to stay within budgets and cutting wasteful spending.
    Too many politicians use tax payer money as a personal piggybank to fulfill their frivolous fantasies with little regard whether the people want or need them.

    A good example of this is to build a beautiful garden in the middle of the road.
    1# It cost money to build.
    2# It creates an ongoing cost forever to maintain.
    3# It impedes the flow of traffic forever.
    4# It is essentially a costly pain in the backside to the population.

    Lived in Burlington since 1942 and love the town.
    I think our new mayor is going to do a great job.

  2. Norman Johnston

    The powers to be should consider the Regional consolidation of fire services and electrical delivery services for further cost savings.
    Current centralized Police and Water Delivery services appear to operate well, notwithstanding recent annual operating costs well above inflation rises, and bring consolidated cost savings to all four constituent municipalities. Something the Burlington Council should take note of and consider action to meet the provincial initiatives.

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