New Westminster council is on Part 2 of a six-step process to approve the city’s 2024 budget early in the new year.
At a Nov. 20 workshop, council received nine staff memos relating to proposed services enhancements that will impact the 2024 budget and changes being proposed in city operations, including the creation of new departments.
Part 1 of the budget process was on Oct. 16, when council discussed the five-year capital budget. Upcoming workshops include: a Nov. 27 workshop on 2024 utility rate projections for electrical, water, sewer and solid waste (part 3); a discussion about the operating budget – including options and proposed tax rates (part 4); a Jan. 8 workshop on refinements made to the capital budget (part 5); and a Jan. 22 workshop on refinements made to the operating budget (part 6).
If all goes according to the timeline mapped out by staff, council will commence bylaw readings related to the 2024 budget on Feb. 5.
During Monday’s 90-minute workshop, staff outlined some of the service enhancements and changes being proposed they say would better allow the city to address key strategic priorities.
This includes: supporting the need to create more housing and responding to provincially mandated changes to housing; responding to the three crises of mental health, homelessness and substance use by creating a crisis response team; operating needs related to the opening of təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre; and securing funding for local initiatives from senior levels of government.
Mayor Patrick Johnstone and councillors Ruby Campbell, Tasha Henderson, Jaimie McEvoy, Paul Minhas and Nadine Nakagawa attended the meeting. Coun. Daniel Fontaine did not attend.
Several councillor commented on various aspects of the 2024 budget presentation. (The Record will be following up on various aspects of the budget. More to come.)
Minhas questioned when council could provide feedback and direction to staff on specific items in the 2024 budget.
Lisa Spitale, the city’s chief administrative officer, said council can provide input at the various workshops related to the operating budget, utilities budgets, and the capital budget. She also urged council members to seek information from staff if they have questions about what is being proposed.
“The position we've always taken is: if councillors have questions, than the community is going to have questions,” she said. “It's part of our responsibility to show as much information. And again, transparency and demystifying the budget is a really big deal.”
Johnstone said the budget numbers get more refined as the process moves forward so it becomes more difficult to make changes as it proceeds.
“The earlier, the better,” he said.
At Monday’s workshop council unanimously supported three recommendations:
- That council receives the information and analyses from the accompanying nine memos as part of the 2024 budget deliberation.
- That the funding requests made in the financial implications sections of the memos form components of the 2024 utilities rates council workshop on Nov. 27 and the 2024 operating budget council workshop on Dec. 11.
- That council direct the senior management team and the finance department to evaluate the funding requests and provide property tax rate options and alternate funding stream options for council’s consideration at the Dec. 11 operating budget workshop.