Forecasting the near future will soon play a role for City of Red Deer as it moves toward a multi-year budget process to boost efficiency.
Instead of approving the operating budget for one year at a time, as it does now, the city is heading towards a three-year budgetary process.
“I believe that multi-year budgets are a more effective and efficient tool,” said City Manager Allan Seabrooke, who noted the 2020 budget will be the last to be considered on a one-year basis.
Next time, city council will deliberate on the operating budget for 2021-2022. And after that, budgets will be approved for three-year spans, starting with 2023-2025.
Seabrooke believes this will increase stability as city staff will know the lay of the land, in terms of funding and service levels, for the near future.
He also feels it will improve efficiency by maximizing staff time that’s taken up with budget matters.
“The numbers and the concepts don’t change a lot from year to year. It saves on workload and (managers) can do more advanced planning,” said Seabrooke, who noted that business owners and other levels of government often plan for multiple years.
“It’s the best practise to plan ahead.”
Wage increases can be taken into account from the average of other union settlements, he noted, and funding for provincial programs is already based on multi-year plans — “it’s not a huge dollar difference, usually at or below inflation.”
If economic fluctuations create unexpected expenses, tax increases readjustment would only be plus or minus a fraction of a percentage, said Seabrooke.
City council discussed planning future operating budgets in December instead of January. And Seabrooke suggested that budgetary discussions could be less exhaustive in future if more of the issues come before council in advance of the budget.
Coun. Vesna Higham has stated that she favours multi-year budgets for boosting efficiency since city managers often start planning the next year’s budget as soon as this years is passed so it’s become a very time-consuming process.