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City Budget

With the holiday season behind us, the attention of municipal councillors turns to the city budget. As we discuss this issue over the next weeks and months, my desire as head of council, is to communicate with, and educate, the public on the functioning of a budget that is over $200 million dollars.

We all know that taxes in the City of Brantford are on the mid to high side in comparison to other communities, and I know that this is a number one priority for all members of Council.  We fully understand the importance of working to achieve a more favourable tax position for our residents in all tax categories – residential, commercial and industrial.  It is to everyone’s benefit to have the residents understand – and be involved in -- the budgeting process.

Brantford is a single tier municipality, and there are a handful of municipalities in Ontario that are single tier and provide the range of services that Brantford provides to its residents and businesses. 
As a single tier municipality, the City provides close to 200 services to the community.  Residents and businesses are aware of some of these services which they use on a regular basis (i.e. municipal water, sanitary sewers, garbage collection, street cleaning and maintenance, and street and traffic lights). 

  • Some of these services are used by residents as a result of the stage of life they may be in (i.e. youth/adult/senior recreation programs, John Noble Home, child care, and cemetery).
  • Some of these services are of a regulatory nature and are meant to protect residents and businesses (i.e. business licenses, building permits, bylaw enforcement, and land use planning).
  • Some of these services are available to residents and businesses at times of crisis (i.e. fire protection, policing, social services, and affordable housing).
  • Some of these services assist in providing the quality of life in the community (i.e. activities at Harmony Square, Sanderson Centre, Brantford Public Library, golf courses, economic development, and parks and horticultural gardens).

One means of minimizing property taxes and service rates is through increases to revenue which is achieved through increased assessment.  Whether through the housing or industrial/commercial sectors, the promotion of the community and economic development play significant roles in increasing and diversifying the City’s assessment base, which in turn helps increase revenues to the City.  This requires an appropriate level of investment in the areas necessary for growing assessment.

A second means of minimizing property taxes and service rates is through 1) cost reduction, 2) cost avoidance and 3) cost control measures.  These can include improved business processes, greater use of technology and e-government innovation, greater service performance measurement to monitor and improve on service delivery efficiency and effectiveness, review of current program and service levels, the continuation of cost reductions through service delivery efficiencies, and the disposal of underutilized or redundant assets in order to avoid incurring additional costs.

As a council we must work together as a team during the budgeting process.  There will always be competing interests and philosophies, and this is a healthy and dynamic part of the political process.  What we have to avoid is the political gamesmanship, and a counter-productive process of undermining creativity and innovation.  It is easy to say “We must reduce taxes!  We will slash and burn until taxes are defeated!”  But in the end, all that this accomplishes is a short-term, snap-shot vision for our community, and even worse, a knee-jerk reaction will lead to cornering future councils into making decisions that are neither positive or proactive.

Budgeting must be accomplished with a clear understanding of the nature of the community in which we live.  Council should begin to look beyond just a year to year approach and begin the exercise of multi-year planning and budgeting. The budgeting process should be open and inclusive. The City of Brantford’s budget must be accomplished in an environment of vision, creativity and innovation.

I encourage you to learn more and to become more involved in the process, help us to help you understand and feel more a part of your community.