Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit May 09, 2014 - 6:02 am

Iqaluit council does post-mortem on flawed budget process

Administration calls on councillors to list priorities for 2015

PETER VARGA
Iqaluit city councillor Romeyn Stevenson, right, discusses changes to the city’s draft 2014 budget, Jan. 15, with then-councillor Mark Morrissey, left, the city’s director of corporate services, John Mabberi-Mudonyi, front, and John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer, at a meeting of the city’s finance committee. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Iqaluit city councillor Romeyn Stevenson, right, discusses changes to the city’s draft 2014 budget, Jan. 15, with then-councillor Mark Morrissey, left, the city’s director of corporate services, John Mabberi-Mudonyi, front, and John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer, at a meeting of the city’s finance committee. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Iqaluit city council’s budget deliberations for 2014 were the longest in recent memory — amounting to two full months.

Councillors and administrators agreed, May 7, that’s way too long and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The city failed to meet its budget submission deadline to the territorial government at the end of February, and had to request an extension to mid-March.

Council made last-minute changes to the document in time to hit the new deadline, agreeing on a final draft of the budget on March 11. 

Property tax, water, sewer and garbage collection rate increases noted in the document got final approval on April 8.

To avoid such delays in the future, the city’s director of corporate services, John Mabberi-Mudonyi, recommends council draft the next budget before the end of the calendar year.

“It would be nice to have the budget done before the year’s end,” he told council’s Finance Committee of the Whole at a May 7 meeting. “I think before we begin preparing for the 2015 budget, we need council to sit down and describe objectives, of what they want to achieve.”

Councillors agreed to draft a list of those objectives — including major changes from 2014 to 2015 — by early September.

Mabberi-Mudonyi recommended council meet with the directors of each of the city’s 10 departments to prioritize expenses, and draft a document by the end of summer. This would avoid lengthy deliberations over expenses from each department, as was the case in January to March this year.

“If council’s goals and objectives are prioritized over directors’ goals and objectives, then I think it would work,” said Coun. Joanasie Akumalik.

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson recommended that directors of each of the city’s departments attend council meetings for regular updates.

Regular contact with the directors will ensure “we’re on the same page with what they need, and they will be on the same page with what our goals are, then that budgeting process will be smoother,” he said.

“It will make issues that come up with big projects easier to swallow (in budget discussions) when we already know what’s coming up.”

As former chair of the city’s finance committee of the whole, Stevenson headed up budget deliberations for the past four years. He quit the position during this year’s discussions, when council failed to agree on a second draft of the budget.

Stevenson recalled that directors of “six or seven” departments used to attend council meetings regularly to “give us a short report and have an opportunity to take questions from the council,” he said.

Those meetings stopped when the current council, elected in 2012, started its mandate.

“I’ve asked three times in council for a return to that,” Stevenson told Nunatsiaq News, May 8. “I think there’s a will for it to happen.”

“We need those directors to tell us their priorities,” Coun. Mary Wilman said at the May 7 meeting. “They are the people who are hands-on on projects, and we need to hear from them.”

Wilman added that regular meetings with directors will also allow councillors to familiarize themselves “with the individuals who are responsible for delivering capital projects.”

The large number of projects the city has considered over the past year — including a new garbage dump and solid waste plan, a new cemetery, an aquatic centre under construction, and new development areas, to name a few — means directors are very busy, Stevenson said.

“Our council agendas are so full,” he said. “There’s inevitably going to be problems, but if council is aware of it, that will definitely make it easier to deal with them.”

 

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