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Financial plan introduced by City of Powell River CFO

Mallory Denniston brings forward schedule for 2025 to 2029 budget
FINANCIAL MAP: City of Powell River chief financial officer Mallory Denniston has developed a schedule for the 2025 to 2029 five-year financial plan, which is proposed to start later this year than last.

City of Powell River tax notices have not yet gone out but the city’s finance department is already planning for the 2025 to 2029 five-year financial plan.

At the May 16 city council meeting, chief financial officer Mallory Denniston said she was presenting proposed schedules for council’s consideration.

“I know this comes right on the coattails of the 2024 plan and it’s not just because I am super-enthusiastic about budgets,” said Denniston. “It’s because it’s fresh in our minds and we want to give council time to consider how the flow of the last schedule went and how we might want to approach next year.

“This schedule will change. There are a lot of unknowns at this point. It’s meant to be a guiding document.”

Denniston said the earlier the finance department knows when the first draft of the budget is acceptable to be delivered, the earlier internal deadlines can be established for staff.

“This document will be updated and revisited as we get more information throughout the year,” added Denniston.

She said according to the proposed schedule, the first meeting on December 3 would be draft one of the budget. She said December has benefits because there will be more of the year behind for the finance department staff and estimates will be a lot closer, especially around the capital estimates.

“We will come forward in December with a draft one and also in December we would come forward with an analysis of property tax rates and ratios,” said Denniston.

In December and January, there will be online engagement for the public for residents to log on and balance the budget.

“We do receive a lot of valuable information through that process,” said Denniston.

In early January, the city will receive the completed roll from BC Assessment, so it will be brought forward for analysis, because the outcome of that will determine whether the city uses some of the property stabilization reserve or adds to it.

Shortly after that, the proposal is to hold an open house. In past years, it was felt that it was held, first too late, then, too early. Denniston said it is hoped that this year’s schedule will hit the mark more precisely, with a mid-January schedule after the rollout of the draft one and after the survey has been out.

There will be a quick turnaround to get the feedback back to council from the open house and the online survey, so council can give staff direction based on the feedback, said Denniston. This would inform, by February, the first draft of the financial plan bylaw, she added. It is hoped that first and second reading will occur at that point. There will also be the first reading of the property tax bylaw around March.

“When we get into March, April and May we will discuss the property tax bylaw and it will have three readings and adoption,” said Denniston. “My report is asking for council to approve this schedule as a starting point. There is a second recommendation that the City of Powell River five-year financial plan 2024 bylaw form the basis of the first draft of the 2025 to 2029 financial plan, adjusted for improved estimates from new information arising in 2024. We presume the starting point for draft one is the current bylaw.”

Councillor George Doubt said looking back a couple of years, some of the items scheduled for December this year occurred in September of previous years. He said in the latest schedule, it doesn’t start until December 3. He asked Denniston about the compressed timeline.

Denniston said her preference would be to do a fall budget, but critical information is received in January that can take the budget in so many different directions. She said if a first draft was brought in late October, much will change by January. The thought was if the first draft came in December, there would be more information on how the year has gone, she added.

Doubt said he was fine to go with the suggestion but added that councillors will be doing a lot of work between December and April.

Mayor Ron Woznow said the key issue is council having sufficient time to go through the major items.

Councillor Trina Isakson moved that the 2025 to 2029 financial plan and 2025 property tax rates schedule be approved, with the financial plan draft one discussion beginning in October or November. The motion carried unanimously.

Isakson then moved that the city’s 2024 five-year financial plan form the basis of the 2025 to 2029 financial plan, adjusted for improved estimates from new information arising in 2024. The motion carried unanimously.

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