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Councillors, mayor critique budget process

Lag time, organization, tough schedule all comments from councillors

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am

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Councillors got the chance to critique the 2014 budget process on Monday night.

Council had already provided feedback via an anonymous survey to staff but their standing committee on finance was asked to provide any further comments.

Mayor Nolan Crouse mainly took issue with the scheduling around the budget process, saying as chair he feels the entire template needs to have some policy surrounding it.

“This year we decoupled [repair, maintain and replace budgets], we decoupled rates and we decoupled [community services advisory board grant] deliberations,” Crouse said. “It was not easy.”

Coun. Cathy Heron said she liked having the repair, maintain and replace capital budget discussed earlier in the year but suggested less lag time between the city manager’s initial presentation and the rest of the budget presentation process, in order to leave more time for debate and deliberation.

During the 2014 budget process in November and December, the city manager’s presentation was Nov. 12, followed immediately by town halls for public input, but then presentations to council didn’t begin until Nov. 26, leaving council only two days scheduled for debate and voting on budget motions.

Heron’s suggestion was that there only be a week between the city manager’s presentation and departmental presentations in future.

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine suggested that on the online component for councillors, a search or filter function would have been handy. Coun. Tim Osborne wanted more detail in proposed business cases, while Coun. Sheena Hughes wanted to see better organized binders.

Coun. Cam MacKay’s feedback wasn’t about the process but rather the “capital envelope” policy and how new growth revenue is handled – he said it seems to reduce the ability of council to impact the tax rate through changes to either category.

At the end, Crouse praised the way staff handled providing information and the short turnarounds they managed.

“Our directors, general managers and city manager had a tremendous amount of workload relative to the [budget information requests] and the backgrounders and it’s pretty difficult to find fault,” Crouse said.

The committee voted unanimously to receive council’s comments and feedback as information and for administration to be directed to effect any changes as discussed.


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