With the deadline fast approaching, the Village of Pemberton is inching closer to finalizing its budget for 2012, with expectations of a tax rise of up to 3.7 per cent.
Staff presented preliminary line-itemizations and key priorities of departmental budgets for the year to council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, April 3. There was an increased sense of urgency to finalize a balanced budget, which council is obliged by law to approve by May 14. The relative lateness of tabling the budget was due, in part, to last November's election, which took staff resources away from the budgetary process.
While the spending options on the table are very real, Pemberton's chief administrative officer, Daniel Sailland, reminded councillors that the figures before them were a draft, not final amounts. The tax rise, explained Nikky Gilmore, manager of finance, took into account a five per cent decrease in property assessments for this year.
"I think every department was giving its full-meal deal..." Gilmore told councillors, explaining that what they had before them was the best-case scenario. Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy noted that put the budget over by $343,000 and did not yet incorporate objectives from the Village's upcoming strategic plan, which is currently in draft form.
Large-scale purchases were taken into account with recommendations for setting aside funds for upcoming needs, including a new laddered fire truck in 2015, the long planned-for reservoir, and a new computer server to replace aging equipment in 2013.
Overall, council and staff will need to shave off five per cent of what was presented, and have added additional meetings in April to allow the budget enough time to be decided upon and receive first, second and third readings.
Feedback from council to staff on the preliminary budget needs to be in by April 10 in order for staff to factor in requests and changes. Another Committee of the Whole meeting on April 17 was called to discuss the next version of the preliminary budget, with council meetings called for April 17 and 24.
Following the preliminary budget, Sailland presented the draft of the Village of Pemberton's Strategic Plan, a document meant to set out the core values and objectives for the community, and one that would provide continued guidance not least for future budget priorities.
"If the strategic plan is also good, then this helps inform staff to set priorities, must have, need to have, nice to have," he told councillors.
The strategic plan includes a mission statement that includes "maintaining a Village which preserves and enhances the natural environment, heritage and uniqueness of our community and supports healthy and active lifestyle opportunities."
There are four main themes: economic vitality, good governance, excellence in service, and social responsibility, with extensive points in how to achieve this.
After Sailland's presentation, and after several hours of discussion on both budget items and the minutiae of the strategic plan, councillors joked about the challenges put forward:
"What are we going to do in September, when we've accomplished all this?" asked Councillor Mike Richman.
"September, what about May?" Sturdy replied.
"Slacker," replied Councillor Ted Craddock to Richman, amid laughter.