Report from the Budget Front

Ron Bolin —  August 17, 2010
At its meeting on Monday, August 16, the Finance Policy Committee of the Whole (FPCOW) began its discussions of the 2011 budget with a purported review of the 11 priorities set by Council last year to see if they should be kept or modified.  This request came, quite appropriately, from Staff who need to understand the ways in which the Council might want the 2011 budget to be crafted.

To kick off the discussion, Brian Clemens from Finance made a presentation outlining where our 2011 budget was currently heading given current outstanding decisions.  Fundamental information provided shows that:

  • The 2011 property tax increases will be: Residential 5.7%, Commercial 4.7%, and Industrial -15.9%;
  • Estimated total costs leading to the 2011 Tax Increases:  $3,729,000, of which $3,291,000 (88.25%)are related to staff increases;
  • Percent tax increase due to increased staffing costs: 4.1%, all-in increased costs: 4.7%.

Additional Capital spending is shown as $1,377,000 but this is largely offset by an expected revenue increase of $1,200,000 from the taxation of new construction.

If you think that, given current economic conditions, it is reasonable that our residential taxes for 2011 should rise by 5.7% and our commercial taxes by 4.7% (we have so little industry that the decreases in these rates do not make a great difference), you can go back to sleep, comforted in the belief that our Staff and Council are assiduously looking after our economic well-being.  If, on the other hand you suspect that they may be better at looking after themselves than us, it is time to let your opinions on municipal spending be known.

Preliminary budgets have already been submitted to Finance and will undergo internal review in the City in August and September.  In October and November budget revisions will be made and a presentation for Council prepared on Nov. 15. In the December/January time period it is anticipated that a financial plan bylaw will be adopted.  In March and April figures are reviewed in light of new information and necessary updates are made(information about government grants, etc., are received during this period).  On May 15 it is anticipated that the final financial plan and tax rates for 2011 will be adopted (the city runs on its 2011 estimates until this time).  Your taxes will be due on July 1, 2011)

You will note that flexibility rapidly decreases with time.  In fact, the easiest time to make suggestions comes in August and September when new input is being sought from departments.  By mid-November the budget has pretty well jelled.  So start thinking now.

On the priorities which provided the impetus for Monday’s presentation, I have previously enumerated them.  While there was some discussion at the meeting, further discussion and action was postponed to a seminar to be scheduled.  Last year this seminar was open to the public and I trust this will be the case again this year.  It is also usual that Departments make their budget cases to the Finance Policy Committee of the Whole (FPCOW – made up of all of Council) and these meetings are open to the public.  Our blog will try to keep you posted on the dates for these presentations.

Council needs to hear from us as much as they need to hear from Staff.  The job of professionals, after all, is to serve those who are not.  This is easy for all of us to forget.