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Infrastructure deficit, tax increases subject of Ward 2 advisory meeting

 

Ward 2 Burlington meeting
Some 25 residents attended our February Ward 2 advisory committee to tackle the capital budget, which pays for such items as new facilities, road repair and building upkeep.

Next meeting: March 24, 7pm, Rm 247, City Hall

Topic: Hospital funding, redevelopment, current challenges

Some 25 residents attended our February Ward 2 advisory committee to tackle the capital budget, which pays for such items as new facilities, road repair and building upkeep. City Manager Roman Martiuk provided an overview of the history and challenges of the capital program including:

  • capital spending on new facilities has outpaced population growth, and is a key driver behind historic tax increases. In 2000, the 10-yr capital program stood at $175m; in 2009, the 10yr capital program stood at $533m, financed through debt, community and senior government contributions, and tax increases.
  • new capital projects also include an ongoing operations component – for example for additional staff and programming needed for new facilities. This has also impacted taxes

On a continuum of tax increases and spending, this falls on the “doing more with more” side of the ledger. That almost always necessitates tax increases of the kind we have historically seen. Taxes have gone up 26% in the last four years, well above inflation which was 7%. In the last 10 years, tax increases have been 58%, while inflation was 24%.

There was a general view among residents at our meeting that going forward the city should strive to do “more with less”, or even do “less with less” and limit capital expansion and new programming.

Infrastructure funding gap

At the same time, there is an identified gap in funding for roads, buildings and equipment renewal. Currently we can meet only about 68% of renewal requirements. Our buildings and facilities on average have a “poor condition” rating. In terms of dollar value, staff have said we have renewal needs worth about $24 million, but current budgeted funding of only $10 million.

The proposed capital and current (or operations) budget for 2011 will address some, but not all of these challenges. Staff are proposing a tax increase of 2.5%. That includes a dedicated .5% infrastructure levy. Council has also recently learned there is a sizable surplus from the 2010 budget, which we’ll learn more about next week, when staff bring forward a report on the amount, source and proposed disposition of the surplus

My take: During the campaign I pledged to rein in tax increases, and focus on infrastructure and core services. I’m very concerned about our infrastructure renewal gap and will suggest that some of the surplus be directed toward that, in addition to looking at redirecting funds from other capital and operating to infrastructure.

Some of the options that I think are worth considering for reducing our capital spending include:

  • Eliminate the Joseph Brant Museum expansion: $1.8m debt (prior approved)
  • Scale back New City Park: current budget $3.5m
  • Reduce public art program by half: current budget $1m
  • Eliminate Spencer Smith washroom, east end: $665K

What’s your view of these proposed options?

Council has yet to consider the current operating budget, and I think there will be some significant savings there, especially in wage and staffing increases. Some of those savings can also be directed toward capital.

In total, the current and capital budget proposed represents a 2.5% tax increase, which is half what it has been historically. Should council be aiming for less? Every 1% tax reduction requires finding about $1.1m in budget cuts.

Your views welcome. To get more information on the budget, attend one of the public meetings below, and click on the online budget reports.

Budget meetings:

  • Sat. March 5 9-11:30am, Burlington Art Centre: Public meeting on budget
  • Tues. March 8, 9:30 am, Council Chambers, City Hall: Review and approval of the Capital Budget
  • Mon. March 21, 7pm, Council Chambers, City Hall: Council approval of the Capital Budget
  • Tuesday, March 29, 9:30 a.m, Council Chambers, City Hall: Current Budget review and approval
  • Thursday, March 31, 9:30 a.m, Council Chambers, City Hall: Current Budget review and approval (if required)
  • Monday, April 11, 7 p.m., Council Chambers, City Hall: Council Approval, Current Budget

Resources

Click here to read the budget documents.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward
Please check out the articles covering issues that you've told me matter to you. I value your feedback on them because it informs the decisions I make. If you want to let me or others know about concerns or events in your neighbourhood, please get in touch.

My email is
marianne.meedward@burlington.ca

3 Comments

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  1. After the excess capital spending for completely discretionary items of the past few years, (pier, PAC) we now see that the PAC expects the shortfall in their operations to be funded by the taxpayers of Burlington to the tune this year of over $700,000. The PAC should be self supporting and if they anticipate profitable operations in the future they should be able to borrow their short term needs, not obtain more non-repayable taxpayer funding. Of the proposed items, we could certainly live without the Museum enhancement and the public art items and the city staff may be better utilized in trying to develop private sponsors for these things instead of developing reasons to support projects that are clearly against the approved official plan.

  2. I agree with you that these are not necessities. If it doesn’t involve health or safety then I don’t think it is worthy.

    Eliminate the Joseph Brant Museum expansion: $1.8m debt (prior approved)
    Scale back New City Park: current budget $3.5m
    Reduce public art program by half: current budget $1m
    Eliminate Spencer Smith washroom, east end: $665K

    We have reconsidered our personal expenditures and the city must do the same.

    Lynne

  3. I think it is dangerous to look at capital budgets without also looking at the operating budget ramifications. When discussing whether to scale back new capital projects, delay them, or cancel them all together, one really must also understand the operating budget ramifications to be able to make a good decision.

What's your take?