Summary of the 2017 Budget

Councillor Zee Hamid Blog Post, Information 2 Comments

The overall expected increase in your 2017 property taxes is 2.29%
(Full transparency: town’s portion has the highest increase of 5.3%, Region: 1.9% and Education: 0%)

Keep in mind that the increase is from whatever you paid last year in actual dollars (so if you pay $250/month, you can expect to pay $255.73 next year).

I put together a short presentation explaining how municipal taxes work and where the money is going next year. If you have any questions then please leave them in the comments, I’ll respond to each question (but please be patient, I cannot respond in real-time).

Take a look.

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2017 Budget Survey

Councillor Zee Hamid Information 1 Comment

Thank you very much for taking my budget survey, 261 of you responded. Some of you left comments that require an individual response, but since the survey was anonymous I have no idea how to contact you. If you fall in that category then shoot me a line (zee.hamid <at> and I’ll write back.

Other questions can mostly be summarized in follow categories:

Snow Clearing:

Please take a look at our current snow clearing policy and then an explanation and background. Changing the standard is not being considered in the 2017 budget, although it is something we consider as part of the preparation of each budget.

Splash Pad

Yes, we will not be opening splash pads later. That was a one-time mistake. Lesson learned.

GO Transit

As a fellow GO Transit user, I am equally frustrated. Both GO Transit and Metrolinx are provincial responsibilities.

Milton Mall

We’ve zoned it for pretty much everything, beyond that it’s a private property.

Stop CN

Absolutely! It’s more important to prevent CN from ruining Milton than most people realize.

Why is the amount of funds the Hospital receives is so low?

The Town of Milton has committed to $35 million for the Hospital expansion. We also regularly contribute to the Hospital Foundation for equipment purchases.

Get rid of weeds

There are two major line items in next year’s budget to tackle this problem. It’s an expensive endeavor (~$500,000 / year), but it’s not something we can afford to put off in my opinion.

Art Funding / Sports Funding / Cultural Programs 

There were a number of comments in this general category.  We don’t do “enough” in any of the above areas. I wish I could tell you what you wanted to hear, but the reality is that there are a lot of things in the with higher demand.

High cost of recreational programs

Milton has a ‘cost recovery’ (mostly) policy with many programs. I do believe that some of our programs (swimming and skating were mentioned) cost enough that some taxpayers who subsidize community services are no longer able to take advantage of them. It’s a long discussion that I’ll do a separate post on later.

Better Transit

Transit, especially when you are starting from zero, is an expensive undertaking. It isn’t something we cannot implement on full-scale overnight.

At some point in the future, Town of Milton will have evening and Sunday transit. We will have buses running along the grid. We will have express service. However, we will not get there in one or two (or even a few) budget cycles.

We (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) cannot and must not expand too quickly. The smart strategy is to implement a step at a time, pausing to ensure that demand exists after each step.

Coordinated Traffic Lights

In my opinion, we (the Town of Milton) need to take over management of both local (which we have) as as well Regional (which is done by Halton) traffic lights. We need to then coordinate traffic lights across the entire municipality to optimize traffic flow. This, combined with right-turn lanes in key intersections, will save residents a lot of time and money that is currently wasted sitting on lights.

Sound Barrier along the Duncan Lane

This was not part of the original subdivision agreement (well before my time), so it’s something we will have to do after the fact. It is hard to believe but many parts of Duncan Lane are still not assumed by the municipality. There are number of requirements builders have to meet and when the subdivision agreement was signed, there was no time constraint. I am equally frustrated, but there’s nothing we can do (legally) to force the developer.


CN Intermodal Info Session

Councillor Zee Hamid Blog Post, Information 5 Comments

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Canadian Transportation Agency are holding a combined Info Session on the proposed CN Intermodal Hub in Milton. I encourage you all to attend and raise your concerns, I will be there as well!

Details of the information sessions
Date/Time Location
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Milton Sports Centre – Banquet Room
605 Santa Maria Blvd.
Milton, ON
Thursday, October 27, 2016
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Milton Sports Centre – Banquet Room
605 Santa Maria Blvd.
Milton, ON

More information here:

AMO Conference

Councillor Zee Hamid Blog Post, Information 3 Comments

On Sunday a number of your municipal elected officials, myself included, will leave Milton to attend the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference. One big motivation for attending the conference is using the opportunity to meet with different provincial ministries to fight for issues you care about.

Some Ministers I am meeting are:

Ministry of Housing: to bring up the issue of social infrastructure and assisted housing initiatives.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs: to fight the CN Logistics Hub and bring up the issue of full recovery of growth-related costs

Ministry of Transportation: to fight the CN Logistics Hub and bring up the issue of Metrolinx commitments and the development of a coordinated highway strategy

Ministry of Infrastructure: Investing in community hubs, sustainable infrastructure and a coordinated infrastructure planning

Ministry of Advance Education and Skills Development: Support for the Wilfrid Laurier University Campus in Milton

Ministry of Education: Long-term planning of schools, and E.C. Drury School

Ministry of Health & Long-term Care: Public Health funding and long-term care funding

Ministry of Energy: Future of Local Distribution Companies

What are your issues that you’d like me to bring up? Let me know!

Why 9 council members, instead of 13, is a better option for Milton

Councillor Zee Hamid Information 2 Comments

Starting 2018 Milton will have two additional regional councillors. This required re-visiting number of local councillors to balance boundaries. There were two options: 1) add two additional councillors for a total Council of size 13 or 2) two fewer councillors for a total Council size of 9. Staff recommendation was Council size of 9, which is what our Mayor favoured as well. This post explains why I agree with our staff and Mayor. 

Fewer politicians is not always the right approach. One of the things PM Harper got right was increasing the number of MPs in the Parliament to improve representation by population. City of Toronto absolutely must increase number of councillors to make sure people continue to have representation they deserve (fortunately, it’s doing that). United States could substantially improve its political system by doubling or tripling members of Congress (unfortunately they won’t do that).

In a representative democracy, voters must be able to appoint, and access, representatives to fight for their behalf.

In light of this, this week’s Milton council’s decision to set the size of its council to 9 members, rather than 13, seems like a poor decision. However, as is often the case, devil’s in the details.

On Monday the Council also renewed the transit contract, merely 3 days before it expired.  A delay in the vote would cancel all transit services in Milton. Staff had also written two versions of a report, one recommending a library in the new Sherwood Community Centre in ward 8 (Savoline and Main) and one with no library. They did this because the library lease was not signed until the deadline for the report.

Increasing number of councillors would not have changed any of this.

9 councillors are perfectly capable of providing good representation, provided that they have proper training and support.  13 councillors will continue to provide poor representation without training and support.

Milton stands alone when compared to virtually any municipality around us (whether councillors are part-time or full-time) that provides councillors with $0 budget for training and communicating with constituents.  THAT, and not number of councillors, is the real problem.

Not giving councillors any budget for education gives corporate staff incredible power as councillors must take what they are told on face value in absence of the ability to get properly educated. When public and staff are at odds, something that happens from time to time, councillors in Milton only have same staff as source of information that they oversee. That is neither very democratic nor particularly smart.

In past 6 years in the Council not a single councillor has ever complained that they were not able to meet or talk to every constituent who wanted to meet or talk to them.  However, on many occasions councillors mentioned that they had to vote relying on staff recommendation and explanation in a domain that they otherwise did not understand well.

This shortchanges residents.  It is utterly stupid to elect people to represent you but provide them with no discretionary budget for continuing education or communicating with constituents.

I represent the largest ward in Milton by population. Doubling e-mails and phone calls I receive will not have much of an influence in my ability to provide service to my constituents, since the challenge I face isn’t number of phone calls and e-mails.

Proponents of 13 council members are aware of this and argue that we should be able to increase councillors by 4 (9 to 13) and still add more budget for staff and expenses. Unfortunately in real-life money doesn’t grow on trees. The reason why we have not been able to solve this problem in so many  years is because at budget time constituents prefer hard services (library, park, arena, bus, roads) over concepts (democratic representation).

The reason I supported 9 councillors over 13 is because it gives us the opportunity to finally fix this issue. We can add an education and communications budget, similar to every other municipality around us, and still save a ton of money for taxpayers. That will give a much better representation for constituents, rather than simply adding four more seat warmer with no training or support.

For now, residents are better represented by 9 councillors who have the ability to attend seminars and education session independently (AMO provides plenty of opportunities) without having to trust staff on every issue, rather than 13 councillors following the status quo of having staff as the only source of information.

As for more council members, we will have another review in 8 years and will likely add at least 2 (if not more) councillors. But we will do it properly, with proper education and communications budget like every other municipality around us.

To wrap up, the system we adopted is very similar to Oakville.  Each ward will have 1 local and 1 regional councillor. That’s partly why Town staff recommended going with 9 councillors, and the Mayor of Milton voted for 9 councillors.  Majority of Council, myself included, agreed with the Mayor.

But Zee, doesn’t this mean less representation?

No. Currently we have two fulltime and 8 parttime councillors. If you assume fulltime councillors work 40 hours a  week and parttime 10, then you get 160 hours a week of representation.

After the switch we’ll have four full-time and four part-time councillors, giving us 200 hours of representation.  That’s a 25% increase in representation, not a decrease.

Smaller municipalities typically have all part-time councillors. Larger municipalities have full-time councillors. Milton is in-between. As we crossed 100,000 people, it makes sense to switch from our previous model to the model Oakville uses. In this system each ward elects 1 part-time and 1 full-time councillor. It works very well for Oakville and is a good transition from part-time to full-time.  Milton, after this switch, will have 4 full-time councillors, 4 part-time councillors and 1 full-time mayor.  Size of ward in Milton is also similar to the size of ward in Oakville. This is how municipalities switch from part-time to full-time. It’s a decades long process.  Municipalities should not switch overnight from one extreme to another.  Oakville has been in that in-between state, Milton is now entering it as well.

I’ll leave this comparison between Oakville and Milton after this change in 2018, so people can see whether they are getting shortchanged in Milton or not.

Monday’s council meeting

Councillor Zee Hamid Information Leave a Comment

Packed council  meeting this Monday! Some of the items in the agenda are:

Senior of the Year award
Library leasing space in the Sherwood Community Centre (Savoline / Main)
Hometown Hockey Tour
New Development Charges By-law
Council Composition
Downtown Milton Market Analysis
Few development applications

See the whole agenda here.

Please let me know if you have any feedback.

Budget Survey

Councillor Zee Hamid Blog Post 1 Comment

If you are a resident or business owner in Milton, we invite you to share your thoughts on the 2017 Capital & Operating Budgets as we set priorities for civic infrastructure, programs and services. The survey closes June 30, 2016.

Share your suggestions by completing the survey

Bronte Road Expansion

Councillor Zee Hamid Blog Post Leave a Comment

A number of questions came up from the Bronte Street Closure post. It’s easier to answer them in a post of its own.

Yes, the road will be expanded to four lanes and the design includes two roundabouts.  Here’s the rough schedule :-

  • The Region will be installing a watermain on the east side during June
  • Union gas has installed a gas main on the west side
  • Bell Canada will be installing servicing in June
  • Milton Hydro will be extending their primary lines in June
  • We will begin the expansion on Aug 2nd and finish it by Dec 5th.

As an incentive to get the job done within the timeframe expected, we will be including a bonus/penalty clause in the contract. This strategy was very successful when constructing Main Street west of Bronte Street.

Check out the video we did after the completion of that road:

One question that came up was: “why was this not done earlier”.  Answer: people did not live there earlier.

We no longer delay road construction by years, as was done in the past. In fact, roads are now expanded as population grows. The section south of Louis St Laurent until Britannia just started developing. This road will be done in 2016, whereas the area will take a few more years to finish growing.

If money was no issue then sure, we would expand roads before anybody moved in. Sadly, in real world money is an issue. These projects are financed by development charges from new homes that are constructed in the area.

In theory we could build the road by debt financing ahead of time, and then pay back the debt using development charges. This exposes us to risks. If subdivision development slows down (as it did a few years ago), then we’ll get stuck with debt that existing taxpayers will have to carry.

We follow the “new growth should pay for itself” philosophy. That means we cannot (and will not) force existing taxpayers to build infrastructure for future growth.  The important thing to note is that roads are expanded as people start moving into an area.  That is what happened with Louis St Laurent expansion, Tremaine expansion and this current Bronte expansion.


Bronte Street Closure

Councillor Zee Hamid Information 5 Comments

Please note that Bronte Street South between Louis St Laurent Avenue and Britannia Road will be closed from June 6th –  Dec 1st. 

The Region of Halton will be installing a watermain on Bronte Street South between Louis St Laurent Avenue and Britannia Road commencing June 6, 2016. During the months of June and July, Milton Hydro will be replacing hydro poles along this road segment.  Immediately upon the completion of the watermain, the Town will begin the road reconstruction which is expected to be base course asphalt by December 1, 2016.

Access will be maintained for all local residents on this portion of Bronte Street South and all through traffic will be detoured via Tremaine Road, Louis St Laurent Avenue, Regional Road 25 and Britannia Road.

I know this will be inconvenient for a lot of us on the west-end, but unfortunately the short-term pain is necessary for the long-term gain that comes with the project completion.