As she prepares for the estimates process, treasurer Cathy Brubacher said her goal is to give Brantford city council a realistic 2013 budget that maintains current service levels and reflects public feedback about which city services are most important.
In May, councillors decided upon a five per cent increase to next year’s operating budget. The finance department is tasked with determining how to maintain city services within those financial parameters.
“If you cut staff, you have to cut services. We need a sustainable budget,” Brubacher said.
To minimize risk, the projected dividends from city-owned utilities companies such as Brantford Power will be tied to specific projects in the capital budget as opposed to being included in the operating budget, as happened in 2012. That way, should the dividends fall short, the city can cancel the capital projects as opposed to scrambling to cover a shortfall in operations.
To address what CAO Ted Salisbury referred to as “structural problems” with past budgets, Brubacher will ensure that city departments do not overestimate revenues and underestimate expenses in the draft budgets they present to council, an approach that can produce a deficit if revenue targets are unmet.
Departments submit their wish lists in November, and public delegations will present in January. Council must approve the budget before the end of February.
Brubacher said she would rather see a few city services eliminated altogether than have departments “nickeled and dimed” to the point that service levels suffer.
“You want a tax increase that is sound, that gives the municipality what it needs and is acceptable to the general public,” she said.