City budget rolls out Monday
More town halls, fewer, shorter meetings planned
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 06:00 am
This year’s budget negotiations will see a few changes in how council goes about its deliberations, and will be more publicly accessible than in years prior.
City manager Patrick Draper will present the 2013 operating and capital budgets to council Monday night, officially kicking off the month-long process.
All budget specifics are under embargo until 3 p.m. Monday, when council’s meeting begins, but the preliminary budget position passed in September by the standing committee on finance, made up of the mayor and councillors, calls for a minimum 2.29 per cent property tax increase to maintain services at 2012 levels, or what Draper describes as the base budget.
There are 38 business cases in the budget that, if all were approved, would add another 2.85 per cent to the tax increase for a total jump of 5.14 per cent.
Draper’s approach is different from years past, where the tax increase also factored in business cases listed as funded. Instead of dividing them into funded or unfunded, Draper will simply recommend which cases staff feel are most important.
“Part of what I will try to do with the presentation is put it into context for everyone, the good sense of value for money,” Draper said.
Another change Draper has enacted is reducing the number of sittings for deliberations by council, which will sit as committee of the whole during negotiations, as well as the number of hours at each sitting. Draper has reduced the number of total sittings to five and slashed roughly an hour off each one.
“Because this is their third budget, they’re familiar with many operations of the city, so with departments where there are very few changes year over year, there’s no need for a physical presentation on that topic,” Draper said. “We’re just continuing service levels, but if members of council have questions they can ask or make information requests, but in terms of occupying time in chambers, there are presentations where they would know all the information.”
Council will not officially start budget deliberations until Nov. 20, with the goal of passing the budget on Monday Dec. 17. Following Monday’s presentation, there are three planned open houses, each of which will be hosted by different community groups. The first, on Monday Nov. 5, will be hosted by the community services advisory board at Sir George Simpson School. The second will be Tuesday Nov. 6 at St. Albert Catholic High School, followed by another Thursday at the Youth Community Centre. The second town hall will be hosted by the St. Albert Kinsmen, Youth Community Centre, VASA, Community Information and Volunteer Centre and public library, while the third will be co-hosted by the chamber of commerce, NABI, St. Albert Taxpayers Association and St. Albert Housing Society. All three run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
All of council’s budget deliberations will also be webstreamed at www.stalbert.ca. Only meetings of council will be aired on Shaw.
The Gazette will be featuring comprehensive budget coverage throughout the deliberations, starting when the embargo is lifted Monday at 3 p.m. Please visit www.stalbertgazette.com for coverage.