Financial staff in the Cowichan Valley Regional District will hold a workshop for board members in November on budgeting options, servicing reviews and how best to integrate them.
That decision was made at the board meeting on June 8 after a staff report was presented on alternative ways to build the district’s annual budget, which was asked for by board members in April.
At the committee of the whole meeting on April 27, directors had a long discussion over a recommendation from staff that the district set a five per cent target as the tax increase for 2023, and begin the budget process for next year based on that.
Ben Maartman, director for North Oyster/Diamond, said at the time that he would like more information before making any decisions and made a successful motion for the staff report on alternative budget-building methods.
Barbra Mohan, the CVRD’s general manager of corporate services, said in the report that the district’s budget process has continuously improved over time to reflect the board’s need to better understand the budget in order to make decisions, and to streamline a year-long process for staff who must both manage and prepare the budgets for more than 178 functions.
She said that sometimes the process was revised to support the learning curve of new board members, or alternatively, to reflect board members’ experience.
“Changes also were made to respond to societal and economic pressures on the taxpayer, like the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mohan said.
“Given the large number of individual budgets and the number of staff involved in the process, every change to the process costs significant staff time.”
Mohan said that at this phase in the budget process for 2023, it’s not possible to change the method by which staff prepare the budget for next year.
She said preparation for the 2023 budget has already begun and the allocation budgets have already been submitted in order to provide enough time to integrate the allocations into the budget packages for staff, who begin their work on the rest of the budgets in July.
“Budget training, and the distribution of budget packages, must be completed by the end of June in order to meet the adopted budget calendar deadlines,” Mohan said.
“Since no mandate was given at the [meeting in April], staff have been given direction to prepare the most conservative, cost-conscious budget possible [for 2023] while maintaining current service levels.”
Mohan said that if the board is interested in alternative budget methods for the 2024 budget, those decisions should be made prior to the conclusion of the 2023 budget process, which is Feb. 22, 2023.
She said there are a number of ways that local governments may approach budgeting, and the board could give direction to staff which, if any, it prefers before the next budget year begins so that staff can prepare appropriately to administer a new process.
The options she provided include zero-based budgeting, priority-based budgeting and multi-year budgeting.
Alison Nicholson, director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora, made the motion for the workshop in November to consider budget-building alternatives.
Blaise Salmon, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, said he supports the motion.
“I want to add in case it’s relevant when we come to it that the tax notices for 2022 have gone out, and there’s some in my electoral area whose taxes are above the average tax increase [in the CVRD of 4.09 per cent in 2022] and some below,” he said.
“I’ve heard that they range from minus six per cent to an increase of 16 per cent. I mention this just for context. We spend all sorts of time trying to get to our tax targets, but the reality is there is quite a range.”