Ramsay bristles at budget process

Mayoral hopeful says its undemocratic for ‘lame-duck’ council to have first crack at next year’s budget

It’s fundamentally undemocratic for a ‘lame-duck’ council to make budget decisions for 2011, a week before a new council is sworn in, said Ward 1 Coun. Mike Ramsay.
He was reacting to a planning schedule for 2011 that would put next year’s budget into the hands of the current council for preliminary input, and suggested the early budget deliberation be delayed two weeks, to allow the new council to have first crack at providing input.
“It is totally undemocratic to make any budget decisions for next year mere days before the swearing in of a new council, and after the results of the October election,” Ramsay told City Scene Barrie.

Ward 1 Coun. Mike Ramsay

“Taxation is a major election issue and the public should have their say through their elected officials on the new council, whoever they may be.”
However, the majority of council accepted the advice of the city’s general manager of corporate services, Ed Archer, that even a two-week delay would disrupt the planning flow, with a cascading effect throwing the entire process out of whack.
“This is not a simple matter of changing dates … there is a level of coordination involved (in getting) it right,” Archer told council.
As adopted, the 2011 budget will come before general committee on Nov. 29, the last meeting of the current council. The new council meets a week later, but that occasion is largely ceremonial, city council Dawn McAlpine told council. (Click here to view the staff report, item CRPO004-10)
If delayed, the budget might not come before council until Dec. 20, with the Christmas break in the offing, putting preliminary discussions into January, council was told.
Budget approval is scheduled for the end of March, next year.
Ramsay suggested that if staff needed to work overtime to accommodate a change, that was an effort they should be prepared to make. Archer pointed out that staff already posts a substantial amount of overtime, and reiterated his opinion that a delay would have a substantially negative impact on the planning process, including delaying budget approval until April, which would have ramifications for the issuing of tax bills.
He added the new council would have several opportunities to provide feedback during budget deliberations.
“I don’t believe there is any truncating of council’s will through this process,” said Archer.
Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse supported Ramsay’s position.
“We should not in any way tie the hands of the next council. Getting it right the first time, and allowing the elected representatives to have their voice, is the most important thing.”
However, Ward 9 Coun. Andrew Prince pointed out that the current council has made major changes to the planning process, supporting the sequence as presented by Archer. And, he said, there are issues that are carried from one council to another, such as the drive to bring the GO Train to Barrie.

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