Ratepayers push back as Burlington eyes near 8% tax hike


Published July 13, 2023 at 3:45 pm

Burlington city hall power mayor politics

Some Burlington ratepayers are voicing their disapproval at the suggested tax hike next year that reaches almost 8 per cent.

Their concerns were raised after forecasts presented in a report to a City committee recently showed an anticipated increase of 7.82 per cent next year. The prediction takes into account funds that will also be collected by the Region of Halton and the local boards of education.

This follows a 7.44 increase in 2023 that saw actual dollar amounts rise by $60.31 per $100,000 of a residential property’s current value assessment.

Those who contacted inhalton.com said the proposed increase is too high and doesn’t take into consideration inflation and other pressures on residents trying to survive in the post-pandemic world.

“I think City council is dreaming too big by spending on projects that may not really be needed,” said Ray Wallace, a retiree. “Spending $100 million on a community centre is far too much (referring to the purchase and conversion of the former Robert Bateman High School). I know we need services but this type of spending is a big reach.”

Several people who reached out to inhalton.com also commented on the costs involved with the old Bateman school site saying the project has ballooned out of control.

At yesterday’s (July 12) council meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns said the feedback she has received has not been positive.

“I’ve had significant feedback from community members indicating that the pressures related to the budget that would result onto their taxes can be very upsetting to their personal finances,” said Kearns. “We need to be very, very stringent with the upcoming budget because this is a lot for a lot of people to absorb.”

Kearns said her office has fielded a number of calls after the preliminary budget report was presented.

“As we work towards the budget we need to be very mindful of how this is impacting our residents’ lives on a daily basis,” she said urging her council colleagues to “go a little bit lower than a little bit higher” when it comes to costs.

The budget is in its earliest stages and won’t be finalized until next year when the tax rate will be determined.

Pressures on the City that are driving costs include inflation, growth, reduced funding opportunities and upgrading aging infrastructure.

“Burlington is a growing, changing and ever-improving city,” the preliminary budget report states. “Similar to 2023, the 2024 Budget will require significant investment to ensure residents continue to receive the programs and services that provide for the high quality of life in Burlington.”

Significantly, the report says the City remains in a state of “catch up” as services and amenities have not kept pace with population growth. Some City councillors point to low tax rates in previous years as the reason why services have not kept pace.

On the other hand, expensive ongoing projects will continue to impact the City’s budget in years to come. These include the purchase and renewal of the old Robert Bateman school ($100 million), the Skyway Community Centre ($40 million), free transit for seniors, and expanded transit operations, among others.

Meanwhile, the forecast shows that after 2024, tax increases should start to decline. In 2025 the number is expected to drop to 5.1 per cent falling to 3.19 per cent by 2028.

“I look at this number (the forecasted tax increase), and like many of you I’m sitting here going ‘gosh, that’s a big number,'” said Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman during a recent committee meeting. “But if we put it into context then perhaps it’s not such a large number. We are on a continuing journey to correct 30 years of disciplined constraint of taxes, (meant) to maintain low tax increases.”

Sharman said that past decisions to keep taxes low mean the City has to pay now and in the future to upgrade systems and services and to meet competitive wage salaries.

Previously, Mayor Marianne Meed Ward acknowledged the City has a difficult task ahead when dealing with the budget. She said to cut 1 per cent off the rate will amount to $4 million in spending cuts.



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