Lethbridge City Council has approved an enhanced budgeting process that will align the approvals of the 4-year cycle of Operating Budget and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) into the same year. This change will also add an annual review and adjustment of the budgets for years 2, 3 and 4 of the cycle.
Council voted unanimously in favour of shifting the budget processes, which will start in the spring of 2022.
This will be a change from current practice where Council debates and approves a 4-year budget cycle every two years – alternating between CIP and Operating Budget. Council most recently approved the 2022-2031 CIP in June 2021.
"City Council stewards the budgets on behalf of the community, and this change will help Council provide greater budgetary oversight, better connect the capital and operating budgets, and help Council strategically focus on revenues and expenditures," says Councillor Jeff Coffman. "This new process also gives Councillors more opportunity to affect changes within the budgets over the course of the term."
This new process will aim to reduce the complexity of preparing and presenting budgets to Council and the community. Among other administrative efficiencies, community engagement activities can also be consolidated to gather feedback from residents on all aspects of the City's budget.
"We've worked hard to break down the process and really understand the time and effort that goes into preparing budgets," says Acting City Treasurer, Darrell Mathews. "I think we have a really good plan going forward making things more effective and efficient for Council, staff and for our residents."
To achieve this alignment, the existing capital projects within the 2022-2031 CIP (currently approved for four years: 2022-2025) will be brought forward in 2022 for Council to consider approval of an additional year (2026), along with the already planned operating budget deliberations. This will allow the 2023-2026 Operating and Capital budgets to be aligned and will set the stage for future budget deliberations.
In 2023, Council will start ongoing annual reviews of the Operating and Capital budgets. Annual financial forecasts will be reduced from twice per year to once per year in preparation for Council's annual budget review. As always, administration will continue to report urgent or unusual financial information to Audit Committee, Economic Standing Policy Committee or City Council, as required. Information on the currently approved City budgets can be found at: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Financial-Documents/Pages/default.aspx