In the 2022 Budget posted on the city’s website as “Consolidated-Budget-Book---Final-Reduced.pdf” gives us some insight into the budget development process. This package contains 2022 department budgets, at Annex C, which are different from those shown in 2022 Budget Tally Sheet, at Annex E. What appears to have happened in 2022 is that staff presented a budget with very large increases. When Council objected to magnitude of the increases, staff slightly reduced the size of their wish lists. I believe this is how, in the five departments we examined, we went from at total budget increase of $1,057,241 to $880,510 which is likely where they ended up. This still involved double-digit increases albeit slightly smaller. Council then accepts the slightly reduced wish list and everybody thinks they did a great job. However the reality is that these five departments still received astronomically high increases in a single budget year totally $880,510 which was more than what was needed to give taxpayers a ZERO percent tax increase this year. This would not have occurred had each of these departments started from zero and showed how each dollar that they requested was essential for service delivery. As well, Council needs to be stronger when faced with budget increases and show some resolve to keep taxes down. They gave in far too quickly this year and should have listened to the three councilors who wanted to send it back to staff for further work.
What is required is a wholesome overhaul of the budget preparation process. There are a number of processes that have been successfully applied by other municipalities. One such option that’s worthy of consideration, is discussed below. It’s not perfect and it does come with its own strengths and challenges but it has been successfully employed by other municipalities.