City faces early deadline for budget

Last year, financial planning meetings began in early February

City council is about to tackle its second budget in one year.

That’s because financial planning for next year’s city budget will start earlier this year than it has in the past.

Typically, council begins to form the budget in March. Last year, financial planning meetings began in early February.

This year, budget planning for 2013 is set to begin in December.

“As discussed at the strategic planning session on October 11 and 12, the financial planning (budget) process will occur in a different manner than 2012,” said Laura Ciarniello, the city’s general manager of corporate services, in a report to council. “The first items to be addressed will be the base budget.

“The deliberations will be based on a replica of the services provided to the citizens in 2012. Council will be provided with reports which detail a comparison of the 2012 approved base budget to the projected 2013 base budget.”

Council is scheduled to debate the base budget during two three-hour sessions on December 3 and 4, with a final resolution adopted by council at its Dec. 4 council meeting.

Mayor Walter Jakeway had been advocating for an earlier start to city budget planning since council adopted this year’s 13.6 per cent residential property tax increase April 24.

“I only hope and pray it’ll be done differently in 2013,” Jakeway said shortly after the April council meeting came to an end. “I expect city staff should bring a balanced budget to us in December.”

Jakeway said Tuesday morning he suggested council have financial planning wrapped up before the new year.

“It should be done by the end of the year or staff don’t have the time to implement it,” Jakeway said. “I”m not sure we’ll get it all done, but I’m hopeful.”

According to Ciarniello’s report, it appears city staff are fairly confident it can’t be done by the end of December.

The second phase of the budget, which covers capital projects, is slated to be debated the week of January 14 while the last part of the budget, which will cover any service level changes and tax rates, is scheduled for the week of February 24.

Specific times will be discussed among council as the dates get closer.