Tax increase proposed at 3.85%; reduced to 2.45% blended with Region/Education

Burlington’s operating budget is proposed at 3.85% property tax increase, which would be reduced to 2.45% after it is blended with Halton Region and Boards of Education portions of the tax bill.

The 3.85% increase is driven by the following factors:

  • 1.97% increase in the city’s “base” budget. (I have asked for a detailed breakdown of what is included in that figure; I’ve also asked for a summary of reductions in budgets)
  • 1.44% increase in the dedicated infrastructure levy, and tax supported debt to address immediate road infrastructure renewal needs
  • 0.31% increase if all city business cases are approved
  • 0.13% increase if business cases from local boards are approved

The increases are summarized in the table below:

Combined with the Region of Halton increase and the Boards of Education, the overall increase is 2.45% or $21.77 per $100,000 of Current Value Assessment.

City staff have advised that they have some options to reduce the increase for council’s consideration at our January budget discussions.

For more information on the budget, including the capital and operating budget books and staff reports, visit the city’s Budget 2016 page.

My Take: I will be looking for ways to reduce the increase, by review of items in the base budget and reductions to business case requests, in addition to any other options presented by staff. I also believe the budget process itself needs improvement; council only focuses on the “new requests” which only represent 0.31% of the total increase. Typically there is not enough information provided about the rationale for the request, or whether the funds could reasonably be found within existing budgets.

In addition, council has no information (unless we ask, which I have) around savings staff have found within existing budgets. Finally, we have no information on what items are including in the 1.97% based budget increase – which is the single largest driver of the total tax increase. I have asked for this information, but we know from discussion at committee it includes some new items, under $25,000.

I believe council should be comprehensively reviewing the budget each year, including the items driving the base budget increase and any new items – not just focusing on the new items.

Finally, I believe we should be aiming for an entire budget at roughly the rate of inflation – not just the “base budget.” You pay the full tab, and for many folks on fixed incomes any increase, and certainly year over year increases, can add up quickly, taking an ever larger portion of your income.

Your Take: Let me know your thoughts on the budget by leaving a comment below.


Written by Marianne Meed Ward

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.

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  1. A little compound interest calculation to share with the other councilors and staff. At a rate of 3.85% the City’s tax take will increase by 50% in 11 years. It will double (100% increase) in 19 years. The takeaway……if you’re living in Burlington on a fixed income, you’re toast.

    Fight that base tax increase, Marianne, it’s outrageous in today’s circumstances.

  2. Re: your comment ‘I believe council should be comprehensively reviewing the budget each year, including the items driving the base budget increase and any new items – not just focusing on the new items.’

    It is unacceptable that Council does not examine and approve the total budget ie everything, every line item. Simply looking at increases versus last year or new items is laughable. City Staff are keeping the Council in the dark. It is time for a reduction in staffing, travel, ‘nice to do’ projects and a reduction in our taxes. They are out of control.

  3. It’s about time this council looked at a zero increase, just like those of us who are budgeting on a fixed income!.
    regards Michael

  4. Councillor – 3.85 % and more for the last few years makes no sense when inflations is running at less than 2% – so twice inflation? What is the problem and would in make sense to do a good old fashion time and motion study to see what can be done with fewer people or different processes or better purchasing practices or …. We need to look at other creative ways to encourage cost reductions … like setting up each department as a business unit with responsibility for P&L and a bonus if they reduce costs …. this maybe a goofy idea but 3.85% says that the present process is not working and it is not sustainable …

  5. Councillor – please fight this with all your might. When inflation is running at <1.2%, requesting a 3.85% budget increase is sheer hubris or incompetence. As to my fellow citizen's comment above regarding infrastructure upgrades – I expect such upgrades to be budgeted within normal operating guidelines and not subject to ad hoc increases. This is teh equivalent of a planning "whoopsie".

  6. We need to cut the fat at our city hall. I have a friend who is in management at our city hall and he states that we could retire off 20% of the city hall workforce and the city wouldn’t even miss them! Lets start to run city hall like Big and Small Business!!! Seniors cannot afford these annual tax increases.

    Also, User should be paying for all recreation facilities etc!

  7. Every year it is the same old story. TAKE MORE. has anyone bothered to look at the disposable income side of the equation. Surely anyone with a grade 8 education can understand one cannot continue to take more money out of a financial bucket without more money being added, otherwise the bucket becomes empty. That is the situation that everyone on a fixed income is faced with, where does one get the extra funds from to pay the constant increases? It does not help to keep the increases at or below the rate of inflation, because inflation is simply another way of removing money from the same bucket to which no additional funds have been added The bottom line is, the taxpayers are the source of the City’s revenue, the City must live within the taxpayers financial means, when the taxpayer receives no increase in disposable income , then they cannot afford any increase in disposable income ,it is called balance budgeting, The taxpayer does it every day! One other thought how much planning is in the mill to accommodate the reduction in revenue when the bottom falls out of the housing market as it did in the US

  8. Marianne,
    Thanks so much for the newsletter and the opportunity to comment on the City’s Budget. Your analysis is spot on! An analysis of existing budgets is the essence of zero-based budgeting; it is too easy to budget based on last year’s numbers++++–a classic symptom of departmental empire-building. I have no problem with the dedicated infrastructure spending–it is necessary having been neglected over the past twenty years.
    For the City, it is too easy to pass an increase and then just leave the taxpayers “holding the bag”–this same game plan has been followed for several years: pass an increase well beyond the rate of inflation and then hide behind the much smaller increases of the region and education.

    Once again thank you for the opportunity to comment

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