Hamilton Audit, Finance, and Administration Committee for December 15, 2014

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Financial updates, hiring a part-time joint Lobbyist and Integrity Commissioner, and $300,000 less in gas tax funding are among the items for the first AF&A meeting of the new Council term.

Live video Monday at 9:30am.


Index: Lost Provincial Transit Funding, Lobbyist Registrar, HSR Pension Shortfall, Freedom of Information Quarterly Report, Emergency and Non-Competitive Procurement – Quarterly Report, Tax Appeals, Closed Session, Housekeeping Items (Attendance Report), Media Coverage, Consented Items
(Agenda Page on City website)


Lost of $300,000 in Provincial Transit Funding Due to HSR Poor Performance

Hamilton taxpayers will need to find $300,000 to replace provincial gas tax funding the City of Hamilton is losing due to the worst-in-Ontario performance of the Hamilton Street Railway.

Provincial gas tax funding is allocated 70% based on transit ridership, and Hamilton’s losing funding to other municipalities with ridership growth.

Hamilton’s public transit agency is the only urban transit agency to not grow ridership in the past few years.

In 2013/14, Hamilton received $10,630,639. For 2014/15, Hamilton will receive $10,313,004 from the province.

As other transit agencies grow, and the HSR remains stagnate, the City of Hamilton will continue to see significant drops in funding.

Lobbyist Registrar

Staff want three members of Council to be on the committee choosing Hamilton’s new joint Lobbyist Registrar / Integrity Commissioner who it is hoped will be interviewed in February or March 2015.

Staff estimate the part-time Commissioner will be paid approximately $96,000 consisting of a $25,000 annual retainer and 313 hours of work billed at $150/hr.

There is no cap upon the number of hours the Registrar can bill. If the Registrar is paid more than $100,000, it will not appear on the Sunshine List as they are a contractor.

The Lobbyist Registry does not take effect until March 31, 2015.

As a sidenote, Hamilton’s current Voluntary Registry – which has been in place for a decade – has its first ever traditional lobbyist. Ken Hall, Senior Advisor, Public Affairs, Enbridge Pipelines Inc. registered this fall.

 

HSR Pension Plan Shortfall

The City’s pension plan for HSR retirees is, like many pension plans, in deficit and the City will need to increase its contributions to the pension plan in the coming years. For the next three years, the City needs to find an additional $5.5-million to fund special payments.

Staff are recommending Council spend an additional $1-million per year for the plan, and use $2.5-million from the pension reserve fund to cover the remaining shortfall in special payments.

This means an additional $1-million pressure upon the 2015 budget.

Freedom of Information Quarterly Report

The Quarterly FOI report shows nine FOI requests as fully disclosed or completed.

Five FOI requests were told by the FOI office that the records were either available from the City website or the department holding the record. (My own experience is that this is often untrue and used to frustrate attempts to gain access to public information.)

Fifteen requests received partial disclosure.

Hamilton’s Freedom of Information processes are consistently ranked as among the worst of any Canadian municipality. In the most recent Newspapers Canada FOI audit, Hamilton’s performance was so bad, the City didn’t even earn an F.

The oldest outstanding FOI request filed by a media outlet was filed in May 2011. A December 2010 FOI request from a resident is the oldest outstanding request overall.

Emergency and Non-Competitive Procurement – Quarterly Report

City staff are required to report to Council when purchases are made outside of procurement policies.

In Q3, there was 9 emergency purchases totaling $1,107,210, 1 “short supply” purchase of $50,000 related to forestry work backup from the December 2013 ice storm, and 73 “single source” purchases totalling $3,625,334.

$199,950 was spent – as an emergency purchase – for repairs at the Woodward Ave. Wastewater Treatment Plant when a control gate failed and allowed for partially treated sewage to be released into the Red Hill Creek. TPR has requested further information about this release.

$150,000 was spent by the City to clad the exterior of Pinky Lewis Recreation Centre where the building used to connect to the now demolished Sanford School. The City considers the spent to be “single source” as the HWDSB is the landlord and they coordinate the purchase of the work.

$150,000 was given to Traffic Logix Corp for “additional testing of traffic calming equipment required specifically for bike lanes”. It was a single source contract. TPR is asking for clarification was to what this contract involved.

 

Tax Appeals

Council is required to approve tax appeals each quarters. Most are the result of changes to homes such as removing pools or other features, fire, change in status (church purchase), or demolitions.

There are a couple of note.

Wilson Blanchard is getting a $11,321.85 tax break for their demolition of 20 Jackson Street West in 2013. The refund is reflective of the drop in property value for the portion of the tax year after the November 2013 demolition.

The property taxes on the site went from $77,667 a year to $7,000 as an empty lot.

Noteworthy as a stand-alone figure, less noteworthy in context, is a $28,408.29 refund in 2014 to Union Gas following the demolition of all buildings at Union Gas’s former Hamilton headquarters at 360 Strathearne Ave. Union Gas moved its operations to a new building in Stoney Creek this year, and the new building is paying property taxes at that site.

Housekeeping

The committee will elect a Chair and Vice-Chair as this is their first meeting.

Attendance

Membership: Collins, Ferguson, A Johnson, B Johnson, Pasuta, Pearson, and VanderBeek

Coverage by Other Media

Here are links to stories by other journalists at the meeting:

Consented Items

The following items are on the consent agenda or expected to be passed with consent:

  • 2013 Standard & Poor’s Credit Rating
  • Placement of $89,000,000 in Debentures
  • Freedom of Information Quarterly Report
  • 2014 Third Quarter Tender Report
  • 2013 Audited Financial Statements for City of Hamilton Business Improvement Areas
  • 2014 Third Quarter Non-compliance with the Procurement Policy Report
  • 2014 Third Quarter Emergency and Non-competitive Procurements Report
  • 2013 City of Hamilton Municipal Performance Measurement Program
  • Tax Appeals under Sections 357 and 358 of the Municipal Act
  • Treasurer’s Apportionment of Land Taxes
  • 2015 Advance Payments to External Cultural Agencies
  • 2014 City of Hamilton External Audit Plan
  • Intergraph/GeoMedia Site License Agreement

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