The City of Regina is considering adopting multi-year budgeting to allow for longer-term financial planning.
Regina's executive committee voted this week to adopt two-year budgets starting in 2023. City council will have a final vote on the proposal next week.
If council votes in favour, budgets would include two years starting with 2023 and 2024. Council would then reassess the project in 2025.
The second year of the budget would be approved in principle, but the specifics could change at any time due to operational requirements, unexpected projects and other changes. Council would still meet to discuss the budget and approve the mill rate each year. The mill rate would be based on expenditure and revenue projections.
"We would not reproduce that budget. But what instead would happen is we would bring a report forward that would talk about any exceptional circumstances that may have changed since council approved that second year in principle at that time," said Barry Lacey, executive director of financial strategy & sustainability.
Saskatoon implemented a similar process for its 2020/2021 budget. Regina councillor Andrew Stevens wanted to see an even longer term, up to five years, so the budgeting process would go over council terms. City administration is recommending a two-year term as a trial run.
"It's what do we want to invest in over a longer period of time and make that decision today for for the foreseeable future, which I support," Stevens said.
Councillor Bob Hawkins was strongly against the proposal. He said council has to take a deep look at the budget each year and look for efficiencies and savings before raising taxes. He said it's also good to reset priorities in light of current realities each year.
"I think that this will reduce accountability. I share the opinion whether it's in a multi-year budget book or not, as opposed to being an actual budget. It's not good enough to do a kind of cursory drive by on it," Hawkins said.
Lacey said council will still go over the budget deeply each year before approving it. He said current realities can also change the budget at any time and it's about improving long-term financial viability.
"That also allows more time into strategic planning, a longer-term strategic planning, and I think potentially could allow for better discussions and linkages between the longer-term financial plan and the annual operating budgets," Lacey said.
Lacey said it would also save money, as organizations and departments have to spend time determining their budgets each year. Under the new system, they could develop a two-year budget and then review the document in the second year.