Friday, August 13, 2010

Budget process to be open
(as published by the Daily Gleaner August 13/10)

No closed doors City says it's time for public to know what's behind decisions

Fredericton city council is planning to hold the majority of its budget preparation meetings in the public eye for the first time. "Our budget process is entirely open this year," said finance committee chairman Coun. Mike O'Brien. He said the only exceptions may be on legal issues.

"We just sat down collectively and said it's time to put it all out,'' he said.
"If the public sees all the debate and the issues that we have and the media has a chance to report on it and challenge us, I think people will come to the realization that there's a lot of consideration goes into the budget.''

The first council budget session will be Aug. 30. Acting city treasurer Tina Tapley will spend about an hour briefing council on the overview of the city's current financial status. "Then we'll discuss the upcoming budget schedule and set some dates and talk about the grant process and how we're going to go about it and then after that, we'll launch into the budget process a few weeks after that," O'Brien said.

Mayor Brad Woodside has already set the tone for this year's budget talks.
This week, when the city's public safety and environment committee recommended that consideration be given at budget time to expanding curbside recycling to apartment dwellers and condominium owners, Woodside endorsed the concept but with an important proviso - no extra spending. The mayor made it clear that if councillors want new programs or services, something will have to go or be reduced.

O'Brien is on the same page. "We've had a very aggressive capital campaign here in the past few years. We're going to complete those projects. "We have the means to do that and the ability to pay the deficit that's been incurred.''

He said costs have to be found within the funding structure. Everyone wants the streets swept clean in the spring, the snow removed promptly and other essential services maintained. "We want to be able to provide those as best we can, but it's all within the existing envelope," he said.

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