New process delays initial City of Nanaimo budget

Nanaimo’s tax-hike debate has been sidelined until next spring as part of a new approach to budgeting.

The City of Nanaimo has launched a pilot process this year, giving elected officials a greater role in building the budget.

It also means changes for residents, who won’t see a final budget package – and proposed tax increases – until  March.

Under the old system, city staff members would pitch a near-complete five-year financial plan to politicians and the public in December. The process didn’t seem to work for some city council members, who saw the budget as fait accompli and wanted more participation in its development, said Brian Clemens, the city’s director of finance.

The pilot approach, which started in October, has council members scrutinizing priorities, costs and service levels for every city department. When the reviews wrap up next year, councillors will prioritize capital projects and decide on tax increases and service level changes, said Clemens.

“I think what it does a little bit is moves a technical exercise to more of a community values exercise,” he said. “Council, as elected officials, are there to provide direction on what is the community value and what is an acceptable level of taxes [and] ... acceptable level of service.”

The city will use last year’s five-year financial plan as a guide until council completes its budget process. Staff also expect to seek approval on projects that need to go ahead in early 2014 within the next month.

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