Budgets vital part of being on council

Know your budgets. That's what Ponoka News' editor advises for the upcoming municipal elections in October.

With municipal elections on the horizon, whisperings of who is running for town and county council seep through the coffee shops.

For those excited about serving their community through public office, understanding budgets is something they will need to familiarize themselves with. Being a businessperson helps, a little. But don’t think that running a business is the same as understanding a municipal budget.

So you can balance the books and run a profit; bully for you, but don’t count on that as the golden ticket to understanding a municipal budget. A better way would be to look at past budgets and see issues previous councils faced.

A municipal budget comprises tax assessments, mill rates, school requisitions, infrastructure considerations, revenue sources, debentures (and more) and let’s not forget about the different types of assets out there and the money needed to pay for staffing, which includes benefits. Some people may not realize that infrastructure is considered an asset. So, roads and bridges hold a value that has to be accounted for.

It’s on odd way of doing things but the value of a road or bridge is figured into the budget not that it can be sold or anything. We’re talking millions of dollars that need to be accounted for.

A community-minded individual looking to join council may already have some knowledge of this kind of budgeting. Usually these well-intentioned folks have taken part in various boards and committees and understand some of these considerations. That’s definitely a bonus but for those who are used to these smaller groups with little public oversight, there will be some adjustment.

The difference between smaller organizations and this multi-million dollar organization is that the money is not yours, you cannot be private about public money. You can try, but that’s just going to cause problems about transparency.

Just take a look at previous councils. Before this current group, administration and elected officials would meet behind close doors and then pass a budget without any input. I recall a few years ago administration bemoaning its plight that no one understood what was going on with the budget.

The more a candidate becomes aware of budget issues, the more they will understand what’s happening for the upcoming budget discussions when they step into office. There will be about one month before the new council sits with administration in a public meeting to deliberate over the town’s budget.

Past administrations used those newbie councillors to push through big ticket items; I cite the challenging wireless water meter transition where council was as surprised as residents about the cost concerns.

On a positive note, the councillors who do care about what happens to the community sadly there’s one or two who have completely checked out took note and learned from that issue. They became quite knowledgeable of the town’s needs, which helped in budget discussions. To its credit, this new administration appears to be working with the best interests of the community in mind so I see this year’s budget deliberations more of a collaboration than anything.

For those potential candidates, with friends in other boards and associations, who think this would be an ideal time to help them out, I say think again. Your responsibility must be to residents.

Helping out a buddy’s project will end up hurting another community goal that might be as important, or more, to residents. A councillor has to step back and look at the whole picture before pushing for money to be spent.

And if you happen to be a person who prefers to work behind the scenes and who prefers to discuss issues in private, then I recommend researching what a public meeting is all about. There are only three reasons where going in-camera is allowed: legal, labour and land. You’ll notice that taxes or budget is not on that list and what you say in a public meeting is, well, public.

Study the town’s past budgets, look at past newspaper articles and you may find that you’re ahead of the game if you are elected as councillor.


Just Posted

PHOTOS: Ice racing at Mulhurst Bay at Pigeon Lake

Results of the ice racing event at Pigeon Lake

Maskwacis RCMP lay charges from home invasion

Four charged in alleged invasion using knives and gun on Samson Cree Nation - three injured

UPDATE: Highway 2 lanes were closed due to milk truck fire near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Ponoka Airport taxiway improvement costs overrun

The $328,000 project increased to $359,000, gravel cited as main reason for the increase

Ponoka County council looks at how it sees collaboration

County wants separate negotiations with Ponoka, Rimbey

WATCH: Ponoka residents enjoy first skate on ice path

A community initiative helped create a skate path for families in Ponoka.

Suspected Toronto serial killer targeting gay community arrested

A 66-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in disappearance of two Toronto men

Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page, to be inducted into Canadian Music Hall of Fame

Canadian band to get top honours at 2018 JUNO Awards

B.C. out of the running for Amazon’s next headquarters

Toronto is the only Canadian city left in the running despite the province backing Metro Vancouver’s bid for new Amazon headquarters

Post interest rate hike debt tips

What to do about your debt and mortgages after the interest rate hike

Foreign workers sleeping in Alberta Burger King basement

Alberta Health Services said its inspectors found foreign workers sleeping in the basement of the Lethbridge restaurant

Court application halts release of bread price-fixing documents

Bread price-fixing documents won’t be unsealed Thursday, Loblaw says

Pharrell and N.E.R.D to headline NBA All-Star halftime show

11-time Grammy winner Pharrell and his hip hop-rock band N.E.R.D. will headline the halftime show at the 2018 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles

Heritage Minister wants zero tolerance for harassment in entertainment industry

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly had two meetings to discuss harassment in the film, TV and theatre worlds

Most Read