September 25, 2021 (2 Minute Read)
Councillor Michael Palleschi raised his ire of a ‘billion dollar backlog’ to his Council colleagues last Wednesday during the deliberation of a seemingly run-of-the-mill quarterly financial update staff report.
“city continues to approve capital dollars much faster than staff can actually get out the door”– Councillor Michael Palleschi
Property Taxes Collected But Not Spent
The report provided a second quarter capital budget update to Brampton’s local politicians in advance of Budget 2022 discussions later this year. The report, in part, showed a $1.061 billion gap in 2021 between overall budgeted capital dollars and dollars actually spent by year end.
“I find it (staff report) kind of demonstrates the city continues to approve capital dollars much faster than staff can actually get out the door,” Palleschi said at the September 24 Committee of Council meeting, “Looks like it will continue to be much higher to the extent we have a billion-dollar backlog of capital that we need to catch up on.”
The staff report outlined that the ‘billion-dollar backlog’ was a culmination of capital dollars not spent despite being budgeted for since 2016. Of the top 30 projects identified by staff, over half remain in the planning and design phase. In particular, the Goreway Drive Widening project that was approved in 2014 has only spent $170,831 of its $33.9 million budget.
“So understanding we are approaching the budget season, I’d like to know what staff are prepared to do to recognize and rectify this untenable situation,” Palleschi later added at Committee.
Unlike an operational budget that focuses on the day-to-day needs of a municipality, a capital budget and its funds are instead focused on large and long-term projects. These projects include investments into public infrastructure and community facility construction and maintenance.
What does this all mean?
Overall, since 2016, the City of Brampton is significantly overbudgeting their capital budgets versus the what the City can actually spend in a given year. In a world barely hanging on with CERB, business subsidies, and other supports, asking taxpayers to front the bill for monies that won’t actually be spent down the roads is contrary the local politicians’ regular commitments of support.
For the staff’s part, the City’s CAO David Barrick and Treasurer Mark Medeiros responded by stating this is an issue that has been identified and is being scrutinized as part of the budget process.
“You certainly raise some excellent points – something we are keenly aware of as well,” CAO David Barrick said. “We saw that coming last year, hence the Council in their wisdom, adopted the project management office to try and tackle these types of things from a sustainability point of view.”
“The CAO summed it well,” Medeiros said. “We’ve dedicated resources to a corporate PMO [project management office] to begin looking at this.”
In last year’s budget, City Council approved $390,000 to establish a corporate project management office that, among other responsibilities, would ensure consistent results in the delivery of capital projects.
As Palleschi stated on Wednesday: “I don’t want to see an outrageous ask for 2023.”