Brampton City council is about to pass the 2018 budget with no strategy to address Brampton’s crippling growth pressures as its population explodes faster than any other large Canadian municipality — includes the same people who will seek re-election next year for the right to lead the city into its future.
After years of boasting about its debt-free status, city leaders are set to take on tens of millions of dollars in external debt as a revenue tool to pay for a mounting list of projects, including $42 million for a new fire services campus and $20 million in 2018 for part of a proposed downtown centre for education and innovation.
This is the fourth, and most important, budget delivered under Mayor Linda Jeffrey, who campaigned on greater accountability and transparency at city hall as well as a promise to rein in runaway spending.
She also pledged to modernize a ‘70s-era tax base that has seen costly municipal infrastructure built to service sprawling subdivisions, which provincial growth strategists have repeatedly said are too expensive for cities to build, especially considering the relatively small property tax base they provide.
The tentative 2018 budget document set to go before council today includes a 3.7% increase to the city’s portion of the budget almost three times the rate of inflation.
The budget aims to address a laundry list of alarming fiscal realities:
• Dwindling reserve funds frittered away for more than a decade while labour costs inside city hall became unsustainable.
• A $1.2 billion infrastructure gap that has grown as a result of poor planning in the past as critics warned that Brampton’s developer-friendly sprawl could not pay for the growth.
• More deferred capital projects that are badly needed, but can’t be paid for, while payouts to city staff have skyrocketed.
The overall property tax increase Brampton residents will see on their 2018 bill is 2.7 per cent, when the city’s share is blended with the Region of Peel portion of the bill and the province’s education amount, which has not increased in more than a decade.
Brampton’s lack of planning vision for decades has tilted growth heavily toward residential sprawl while neglecting essential commercial growth that brings increased tax revenue and drives the local economy through healthy employment within the city.
Instead, the 2018 budget is the latest proof that homeowners, many of whom can’t find work in the city, are shouldering the brunt of the tax burden, with less and less to show for it.