The 2014 budget process got underway Wednesday as council met to discuss the proposed 2014 budget. Staff have recommending making $8 million worth of cuts in order to keep a property tax increase in the coming year to 1.9 per cent.
The following is an overview of the budget process and what you need to know about the key parameters of this year's exercise.
You can also join our live budget chat today, which runs from 12:00 p.m. - 12:30 p.m. Our guests are regional finance committee chair Tom Galloway and Wilfrid Laurier University associate professor of economic, Christine Neill. They will answer your budget-related questions.
Balanced budgets required
By law, all municipalities and regional governments have to maintain balanced budgets. Governments at the federal and provincial level are permitted to run deficits.
Staff take direction from council
The budget document presented Friday was drawn up by staff in the finance department. The finance department takes direction from regional councillors, who earlier this year said they wanted to keep a tax increase to no more than 1.9 per cent.
A further 0.9 per cent increase has been suggested to support the financial needs of the police service. Police Chief Matt Torigian had requested a 1.1 per cent increase from the region. In order to keep the tax increase to that figure, staff had to find nearly $8 million in savings. They suggested $5.5 million in service cuts and $2.5 million in administrative efficiencies in order to bridge the gap.
Council and public weigh in
Councillors scrutinize staff suggestions and weigh in on what they think needs to be changed. The public also provides input, and councillors may choose to direct staff to investigate how to implement changes.
The process repeats
Staff then present a revised version of a budget plan on December 11, which is again scrutinized by council and the public. Staff then reflect any additional changes before presenting a final budget to council on January 15, which is when council holds a final vote.
What does it mean for the average homeowner?
A percentage point tax increase corresponds to $17.40 for the average home in Waterloo Region valued at $281,000. The proposed tax increases - 1.9 per cent in addition to a 0.9 hike for the police budget - means a $48.72 increase for the average home.
Join our noon live chat from 12-12:30 with regional finance committee chair Tom Galloway and ask him your questions. We'll also be joined by Wilfried Laurier associate professor of economics, Christine Neill.
LIVE CHAT HOW-TO
Scroll down to the bottom of the chat and enter your name in the name box, text in the larger box below. When you are ready to send your comment, press enter.
You can also sign in with your Twitter or Facebook accounts, using the buttons at the bottom of the chat.
Remember all comments are pre-moderated and any obscene comments, or comments that attack other users, won't appear in the chat. Please be patient if your comment doesn't appear immediately.
Do you have any questions about the budget process? Would you like to try your hand at explaining some of the budget details? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.