2012 Budget Process – new and improved

As we finalized the 2011 budget, it was clear that we needed a change in both process and format.

A cross-department team was charged with this task and have delivered on the challenge they were given. The material that Council has received this year includes performance measures and trend analysis for all departmental areas. Also included is an overview analysis that allows Council to focus at a level where they can best bring value to the budget process.

The 2012 process started in July when Council received an overview of the estimated impacts on the 2012 budget. For the first time in several years, Council set a guideline for the development of the 2012 budget. This will become a regular part of our annual budget process. For 2012, a target of 3% or less was established.

The second step in our 2012 process occurred in September when we received the 2012 Capital Budget and 10 Year Forecast. This was well in advance of budget deliberations. It represents the first sustainable 10-year capital budget put before Council. While we have been building our reserves over the last few year the proposed financial plan calls for accelerated contributions by reducing debt servicing over the next 10 years. The financial plan also respects all of Council’s approved policies related to capital financing and debt and reserve management. The budget has been received and referred for final approval on December 7.

The third step in our new 2012 process was to approve four Enterprise Budgets in October. Two of these budgets are very familiar: the Water and Wastewater User Pay Budgets. In addition, two new Enterprise Budgets were introduced: POA Court and Ontario Building Code. These four budgets share one thing in common: they are not funded by municipal property taxes. Water and wastewater are funded by user fees. The POA Court is funded by fines. And the Ontario Building Code is funded by building permit and inspection fees. The Enterprise Budgets were also the first to transition to service-based budgets which allows for better transparency and accountability. This means instead of receiving a budget for a department which would have many services embedded within it, we will see the expenditures for each service. This will support our efforts to conduct service reviews on a regular basis.

The fourth step occurred on November 2nd when staff presented the 2012 Operating Budget. Last week, we received presentations from Local Boards and Shared Services. What these five Local Boards and Shared Services have in common is provincial legislation that allows them to use municipal property taxes to fund their activities. The City of Guelph is legislatively-obligated to raise municipal property taxes on their behalf. Council has varying levels of accountability and/or control over these expenditures on behalf of our taxpayers

The next step is to hear from the community. The evening of November 23rd has been dedicated to hearing public delegations on the proposed 2012 budget.

Final budget deliberation is set for December 7. However, the final step in our new process will occur in January when we debrief on the 2012 process and make further improvements for 2013.

You can find the City’s 2012 budget documents here.

Two enemies of a Council (or Board) are lack of time and lack of information.  This new process builds in more time for Council and the community to understand the budget being proposed by the Administration, ask questions, and seek information.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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