The qathet regional district (qRD) finance committee recommends starting the financial planning process early from 2023 to 2027.
At a July 13 meeting, director of financial services Linda Greenan said the plan is to have the fourth draft of the financial plan in time for adoption at the February 2023 regional council meeting. The district regional has until March 31 to submit its five-year financial plan to the province.
“The plan I’m proposing is for the board to pass the budget in February 2023, like we did in 2022,” Greenan said.
Electoral Area D Director Sandy McCormick said she had been very rushed in the budget planning process last year.
“I wanted more time to engage community members in discussions before the budget was passed; I found it to be a very rushed process,” McCormick said. “My question is, what if we have a new board [after the October municipal election], who may or may not have taken the oath? We will probably have new city managers and we will have a new director for electoral area A. If one of the four of us who remain chooses not to run or is expelled, you will have a majority of the board of directors which is brand new.
McCormick said it wasn’t fair until new members went through some form of orientation. She said it will be difficult for them to master what they are doing and be able to think constructively about the budget.
“It’s just too soon with the new board taking office,” McCormick said. “It should revert to a pre-2021 process of passing the budget in March, consistent with our provincial requirements. What would the CAO recommend with a brand new board and budget? »
qRD administrative services director Michelle Jones said while the council was not ready to pass the budget in February, there was still room to review the budget in March and extend the process.
McCormick said council needs to consider, when November rolls around, whether the majority could be on a new regional council.
“Is it really fair to throw them into a budget process in their first weeks in office?” McCormick asked. “We would have to wait a month, even if it is only for this year, to allow the new council to get an idea, before having to make a decision as important as the budget. I would like it to be postponed.
Electoral Area B Director Mark Gisborne said starting the budget process earlier is something the regional council has started doing this term. He said there might be new board members after the elections, but that is part of the governance and election challenge.
“Starting the budget process earlier doesn’t mean we have to pass the budget earlier,” Gisborne said. “The budget must be tabled by the end of March. New administrators can be launched directly into the budget process. I totally agree with the earlier start time.
“You get these new board members and they start to come into the process, but there’s always this delay and they have time between when they’re sworn in and the end of March to work out what’s going on with the budget.”
City manager and finance committee chair George Doubt said he thought the proposed timeline was good.
“It starts with the first draft in November and it gives the process, not just for the board, but it gives four opportunities for public input into the plan as it exists,” Doubt said. “There may be additional finance committee meetings or board meetings as we move forward to add to that consideration on this. It is possible to extend it if the time needs to be extended.
“It’s important to immerse new trustees in regional district finances as soon as possible because if they haven’t thought about it before the election, they will certainly think about it at their first meeting in November, that whatever what the regional district does is somehow tied to the budget. It will be a steep learning curve and I know it was a steep learning curve for me when I came on board. This is the game you get into when you run for regional district representative.
In terms of public input into the budget, Greenan said the plan will be to announce budget meetings and the public is invited to come to meetings and provide input. Questions can also be asked to the finance department of the qRD.
Doubt says he hopes people read the ads.
“It’s certainly helpful for a resident or ratepayers to show up at these meetings and voice their opinion on what they would like to see,” Doubt said. “We usually hear from more people after we’ve completed the process than when we’re working on it and I would really like to see more people involved throughout the process.”
The Finance Committee recommended that the Board approve the 2023-2027 planning process as proposed.