Minto council approves accelerated 2021 budget process

MINTO – Town officials are planning an accelerated process for the 2021 municipal budget.

During the Oct. 6 Minto council meeting, treasurer Gordon Duff presented a schedule that would see next year’s budget approved by mid-December.

Typically, council approves the budget for the current year in late March or early April.

The new schedule would see operating and capital budget special meetings held in November with a budget open house held for the public on Dec. 8.

The budget is slated to be presented for final approval by council at the regular council meeting on Dec. 15.

Duff said the town will try to host an in-person budget open house, but will hold it virtually, if required, to meet COVID-19 restrictions.

Mayor George Bridge said physical distancing at the open house likely won’t be a problem as even in “pre-virus” times, “we never had anybody hardly show up at the open house.”

“It was probably a pretty safe gathering in the past,” agreed Duff.

In his report, Duff noted the 2021 budget will need to contain limited discretionary spending and take into account “the financial realities of limiting tax increases to residents.”

Duff’s report included a recommendation that the 2021 operating budget be developed with a focus on:

  • supporting the economic recovery from Covid-19;
  • compensation adjustments for cost of living;
  • inflationary increases for items such as fuel, natural gas and hydro; and
  • contractual related increases; and
  • operating impacts from 2020 capital projects.

The report recommends aiming for minimal service enhancements and growth requests and implementing user rate and fee increases where possible.

Continuation of reserve and reserve fund contributions and funding for capital expenditures is also recommended in the report.

For the 2021capital budget, staff are recommending the budget be developed to:

  • maximize provincial and federal grant funding opportunities;
  • utilize debt if needed for funding of grant projects or major projects; and
  • balance capital requests while building reserve balances.

“We have been working away for these past several months on the ‘21 budget, still keeping an eye on the effects on 2020 budget, which so far haven’t been too bad from COVID-related things,” said Duff.

Bridge said, “I’ve always wanted to have a budget done way before we do it and I’m glad we’ve been able to get going that way. It’s a team effort.

“I think we’re going to get a really good solid budget going forward and ahead of the game so we know where we’re at.”