[Update Nov 23, 2012: The public hearing on the budget started today with a thorough presentation from city administration chock full of historical information about trends driving the operating budget. A pdf of the presentation can be accessed here.]
Yesterday Council received its first look at the proposed 2012 operating budget (full documentation available here). To achieve Council’s previous objective of 1.5% for neighbourhood reconstruction and 3% for, well, everything else, means some significant cuts that Council will weigh against substitute cuts and/or increases in revenues.
One of the main things driving our costs is is our infrastructure agenda: e.g. borrowing for all the new things we’re building like Meadows and Clareview rec centres, and then the cost of operations that hit when these new facilities open up. Some of the other things are cost of labour, which continues to rise briskly in recession-proof Alberta, and things like diesel fuel costs, which are way up. I’ll be spending the next few days getting acquainted with the 450 pages of the budget but if you want a handy overview, start with the executive summary.
One of the things this budget (together with its companion 3-year infrastructure budget) will test is our commitment to keeping up with renewal needs. Repair and replacement of existing infrastructure is substantially underfunded in the capital budget, and even neighbourhood renewal has been slowed down in the draft. I am hopeful that we can get neighbourhood renewal back on track and increase our investment in existing infrastructure. My position going into our last budget three years ago was we shouldn’t be building new infrastructure without a companion commitment to fix our existing infrastructure. We’re short there with this infrastructure budget but I am hopeful that can be addressed.