News Local

Gearing up for budget time

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Pembroke council is gearing up to tackle the city's 2017 budget.

During a recent finance meeting, LeeAnn McIntyre, the city’s treasurer, presented her suggested timetable to plan out the upcoming budget. She said staff have already been working on their departmental budgets, making them ready for review by the treasurer, deputy treasurer and the city’s CAO.

She said by the end of November, all these initial budgets will have been reviewed, and local boards such as the Pembroke Public Library Board would have their financial plans in by Nov. 30. All of these documents and requests will be reviewed and revised as needed throughout the first week of December. The treasury department will then spend the next few weeks into January consolidating the documents into a single budget package delivered to city council members by Jan. 13, 2017, ready to be reviewed.

McIntyre said a series of budget meetings will be scheduled between Jan. 23 and Feb. 3, during which the finance committee will review, pick apart, revise and then accept a budget within which the city will operate.

She said the goal of this advance planning is to finalize the budget so it can be formally approved by the Feb. 21, 2016 council meeting. This is in line with the practice of a number of local municipalities including the County of Renfrew, which finalizes its budget by the end of January of each year.

The idea of starting the city budget process earlier in the year was brought up during the 2013 budget deliberations, when a number of councillors expressed their concern and frustration over a process which was taking until mid-June to wrap up. The earlier start also means the number of budget meetings should also be cut back to a couple of budget workshops, following Renfrew County's format.

Council also wanted to get a handle on the number of budget pre-approvals, which are capital projects approved before the budget is passed due to tight timelines and the short construction season. Council members often felt those spending plans hadn't been adequately debated before getting the go ahead.

City staff have stated the advantages of getting the budget done by the beginning of the year are that council will have a better idea of what resources it has on hand; will no longer need to pre-approve capital projects before the budget is finalized; no longer see delays in starting capital projects while waiting for the funds; and procurement can be spread over the course of the year, rather than done in a short time frame.

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