From the public’s perspective, the city’s budget (and related tax implication) is an issue that typically makes news only at the end of the year. At a special meeting in December or January, City Council reveals the details for municipal expenditures anticipated for the following year, along with information on where the funds will come from to pay for all these services.
In reality, the adoption of a budget is the culmination of a very long and detailed process. Budget planning for the following year(s) actually starts in February at the annual Council/Management strategic planning workshop. Short and long-term goals and objectives developed at this workshop are prioritized and integrated into the budget planning process. In May, Council establishes the general guidelines for the following year’s operating budget and 3-year capital works budget. The internal Budget Team relays these guidelines to all Department Directors and establishes the schedule for the completion and presentation of each Department’s budget to both the Budget Team and the relevant Council Standing committee (a process that must be completed by October).
Throughout this entire process, the Finance Department is perpetually updating data, number-crunching and developing multiple ‘what if’ scenarios, in particular with regard to taxation rate options.
The completion of all this work, the result of thousands of man-hours of work, is then consolidated into the budget documents presented to the public at a special Council meeting in December or January. The entire process starts over again in February.
As stipulated in the Cities and Towns Act, article 105.4, the treasurer shall table two comparative statements at least four weeks before the Council sitting at which the budget for the following fiscal year is to be adopted.
The first statement compares actual current year revenues and expenses incurred at the date the statement is filed with those of the preceding year for the corresponding period of that fiscal year.
The second statement compares the projected revenues and expenditures for the current fiscal year, as at the time the statement is prepared and based on the information at the treasurer’s disposal with those provided for in the budget for that fiscal year.