JOriginal Published on Jun 30, 2022 at 19:05

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Town of Strathmore has officially opened discussions regarding the 2023 budget process, which was introduced during a special meeting of council on June 22.

Budget timelines for 2023 were initially presented to council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on June 8 and was further adopted as part of the council agenda the following week. 

Brenda Hewko, acting as a subcontractor supporting the Town’s finance team, presented a workshop to council during the special meeting to discuss the process of how municipal budgeting is operated and what kinds of considerations go into establishing the Town’s budget.

According to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the Town must plan for a balanced budget and can not plan to run a deficit. 

The Town of Strathmore operates primarily on four primary financial policies, as described by Hewko. These include the overall budget, cash and investment management, operating and capital reserves, and the Town’s long-term financial plan. 

“The purpose of the budget policy is to make sure that we are aligning and funding … the various different activities, expenses (and) everything that we’re looking to do so that it is in the budget,” said Hewko. “The cash and investment management policy is looking at purchasing power, liquidity and maximizing returns that investments would earn and conform to the MGA.”

Hewko explained that the operating and capital reserve policy focuses on the long-term financial stability and flexibility of the town.

The long-term financial plan though is treated differently in process than the Town’s other policies, still it must be approved by council before being implemented by the Town’s finance department and is thus introduced similarly to other financial policies.

Also included among the Town’s finance department’s considerations within the budget are Town personnel, local debt, loans, intergenerational equity, and records of financial transactions. 

Regarding the growth cycle of the town, Hewko referred to the municipal development plan, which estimates how the town is going to grow from a literal standpoint, and where such developments are likely to occur.

“When we look at the growth cycle, you start at the municipal development plan, which is, what do we think the town is going to do in the next 20, 25 or 30 years,” said Hewko, who explained that those developments tend to be oriented more towards long term financial gain for the town based on area structure plans and what physically will be built to grow the town.

In the short term, as properties such as residences are constructed, there are one-time payments from sale of property, followed by the onset of reliable, regular revenue based on property taxes and utilities.

Summarizing the financial plan process, the proposed timeline presented by Hewko indicates varying stages which will progress into December, when final budget plan decisions will be made. 

The infographics and presentation put forward to council on June 22 is available for public reference.

This item reprinted with permission from The Times, Strathmore, Alberta