Brampton’s City Council is meeting a week ahead of schedule today (Dec 6, 2018) at 4pm to decide on your tax bill increase. City staff is proposing increased spending this year of 3.7% that will result in a 2.7% hike to your 2018 tax bill. The four year tax bill increase since the last municipal election will top 11.5%.
Your tax bill pays for services provided by the City of Brampton ($936 million budget) and the Region of Peel ($3.1 billion budget). Your bill also pays part of the costs of K-12 education which is provincially funded. The Peel District School Board is the largest board in the region and operates with a $1.8 billion budget.
Spending at the city is going up significantly more than the increase to your tax bill. In 2018, the city’s proposed budget is going up by 3.7%. In 2019 and 2020, the increase is projected to be 5.4% and 4.6% respectively. The increased spending is supplemented by development charges and growth in the tax base from mostly new residential homes coming on stream.
The city has a looming infrastructure gap to pay for repairs to the city that is expected to balloon to over $650 million by 2025. The city’s corporate asset management strategy from 2016 suggested that a hike in the infrastructure levy from 2% to 4.7% would be needed to start closing this gap. Such a steep hike to taxes is not a strategy that the city or elected council is promoting. Instead, to mitigate the gap in funding, it appears that tax payer supported debt (or what the city refers to “pay-as-you-go financing”) will be used to pay for upcoming capital projects including investments in the city’s new university project.
A common sentiment from residents and the Brampton Board of Trade is to cap tax increases to the rate of inflation. The city’s own survey conducted by Environics shows that 85% of residents would rather maintain or even cut existing services if their tax increases could remain at inflation or lower. In the budget documents, the city indicates that they have saved $3.1 million this year in the base operating budget. This is not much comfort to residents who are still seeing taxes and spending increase by 2 to 3 times the inflation rate.
The city’s top bureaucrat CAO Harry Schlange presented to Councillors the notion that up to 20,000 people provided input to the budget throughout the course of the year through various city lead engagement efforts. The sample of input represents only 3% of residents and is arguably not representative of the remaining 97% of residents. In the budget are many examples of new spending that is questionable and may be scratching the surface of services that need indepth review. For example:
- The city’s recreation department is going forward with a project to provide robotics programs for elementary aged kids. Recreational programs while valued by residents are subsidized at a rate that compares to the subsidy of the city’s bus transit (approx 50%). Should the city run programs that are already being provided by Brampton Library, all of the school boards, and numerous non-profits and 3rd party organizations like Brampton Robotics?
- The city is budgeting $8 million for a new sports dome at the Brampton Soccer Centre (soon to be rebranded). This may be part of a larger sports strategy in the city, however, we haven’t seen what this strategy is.
- A need that is in high demand in the city is night time lighting for a cricket field. While Brampton has numerous softball fields that can be used late into the night during the summer, cricket enthusiasts in the city have to wait until the weekend to get in practice and game time. In fact, there are no night time cricket fields anywhere in the GTA and Brampton could be the first.
There are also important services like Fire and Emergency services that the city will be investing in to start addresses training and gaps in service and response. The city currently only has 406 firefighters, which is about 100 firefighters fewer that what the city needs to be comparable to cities like Mississauga and Toronto. 20 firefighters are being budgeted for each of the next 3 years.
This is the last budget to be passed by this City Council. 2018 is an election year for both municipal and provincial politicians who will all make many promises that will affect your pocketbook. Brampton Focus plans on covering all of the politicians and engaging all residents to get involved and be informed.