Town Councillor Marni Fedeyko said she heard frustration over the lack of details in the draft of the 2024 budget from participants in her consultation on Nov. 13.
Held in advance of council's budget deliberations that begin today, Fedeyko says she shares some of those frustrations.
"I've been hearing for the most part just a little bit of frustration," says Fedeyko. "People are looking for actual numbers rather than just budgeted forecasts, and I think people want more detail and they probably deserve more detail. Frankly, I have to say that I am disappointed in this year's budget book as well."
She says a third of the expenditures of the $82.4 million budget are generalized, and further explanation is required.
"I think we need to have more detail including how much are we spending on contracts, what are we spending on assessments, and why are we spending the money on certain capital items?"
She points to how there's no explanation for the change in scope of the Glenbow infrastructure project that's been increased to $12 million over the next three years from last year's $5 million project that was delayed due to funding issues.
"That stuff I think needs to be provided to council ahead of time, not while I'm sitting in deliberations, where I should be actually talking about debating the budget. I don't even have all the information. How can I get into that debating area?"
Council received a copy of the 214-page budget last week and she believes they needed it a week or two earlier to digest the information and pass along questions to administration. She's already submitted a number of questions.
"To me, it's really cutting it close. We're in deliberations as of tomorrow, we should have had ample opportunity to ask questions, get answers, and then even re-ask questions if we needed to. But now I feel like we're just short on time, and if we're not asking anything, it's going to get passed with very little challenge."
Councillor Fedeyko is teaming up with Councillor Tara McFadden to hold a second public engagement at the SLS Centre on Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Council begins its deliberations today at 9 a.m. They continue tomorrow, and meetings are also scheduled for Nov. 23 and 27.
The final municipal budget is expected to be presented for approval during the Dec. 11 regular meeting of council. The town has the ability to prepare an interim budget should deliberations be longer than anticipated.
A public engagement session with town councillors wasn't included this year. However, valuable input feedback was received from 487 residents in an online spring public engagement.
A town news release says town administration crafted a draft budget that closely aligns with this feedback and the expressed desires of residents. Roads and parks and open spaces emerged as two primary focus areas in response to community priorities.
Town administration says its key priorities in this budget draft revolve around maintaining essential services, investing in our capital infrastructure needs, and continuing to invest in the staffing levels required to deliver on both of these priorities.
The allocation for grant funding and reserve contributions will be maintained at 2023 levels.
You can read the entire budget book here.
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