Council received the proposed 2013 tax-supported operating budget on Friday. We have a workshop this week (November 22) to ask questions about the material we have been provided. We hear public delegations on November 29 and make a final decision on December 5.
One of last year’s themes was “building a better budget” and this included significantly enhancing the information provided to Council. The material and process was widely praised. Our Administration has taken it one step further this year by providing business cases with respect to the positions that are being recommended, or not, within the 2013 budget.
So at a high level, what does the budget look like?
The CAO and Executive Team are requesting an additional $6.7 million to run the city next year. To put this into perspective, last year’s budget was $176 million so this represents a 3.74% increase.
Most of the increase (2.73% or $4.9 million) is required to maintain current services – what we call the “base budget”. How was this reached?
First, the city grew. There are more properties against which the current tax levy will be applied. This amounted to $3.4 million.
Second, the city has higher costs (e.g. employee contract obligations, insurance and energy bills). Also included here are the costs of annualizing programs (i.e. a program that was planned to start midway during 2012 must now be funded for the entire year in 2013) and impacts from last year’s capital budget (in 2013 this is primarily related to maintaining parks that have been built in new residential subdivisions).
Third, the Administration is recommending a number of amendments (reductions) to what we did last year amounting to $2.2 million (1.27%).
Between the new assessment, increased costs of doing business, annualizing programs, impacts from capital projects and recommended amendments, we are left with the proposed 2.73% increase to the base budget.
Most of the proposed amendments to the base budget will not likely raise any concerns with residents or Council. However, a few may, for instance:
- eliminating Christmas tree pick up (residents will be responsible for disposing of their trees)
- eliminating residential sidewalk plowing (residents will be required to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes)
- introducing a new fee to change the size of your waste carts ( you will need to choose wisely)
What is the remaining 1% increase for?
An additional $1.8 million is being requested to address:
- Growth – This is being requested to ensure that all residents receive the same level of service as our city grows.
- Corporate Strategic Plan – This is being requested to make the investments necessary to do business differently. A significant part of this to implement new technologies to increase productivity, achieve better outcomes and improve customer service.
- New Services – This is being requested to begin the implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan and to ensure we can respond to devastation that the Emerald Ash Borer will cause to ash trees throughout our city.
There are more details than this to be discussed over the next couple of weeks. For example, one concern that I have heard from the community is the potential cancellation of the Affordable Bus Pass Pilot. This is not being recommended by the Administration.
The Administration – our CAO, Executive Directors and their teams – has provided Council and the community a strong budget from which to begin our conversation.