Sooke district council has set a tight schedule for adopting this year’s municipal budget and updating the five-year financial plan, meaning councillors must agree quickly on the spending and taxes needed to pay for it before May 15.
Council usually begins budget meetings in December, but those meetings won’t start until Wednesday (March 8).
The reason? Municipal staff is researching historical data on the community and how the district will grapple with growth. Over the last five years, Sooke has grown by almost 14 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
“I think it’s important the mayor, council and the public have full information about those trends before making budget decisions,” chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan told council last week.
The tight schedule means council – and the public – will have six meetings to learn about how the district will cover its more than $20 million in services, plus how it might fund new projects.
Next year, Sullivan wants to have the budget “locked, loaded and approved” by Dec. 31 – five months before the provincially-mandated May deadline.
The new schedule will bring more accountability to the budget process, she said.
“As we start the new year we’ll be in a better situation to move business forward and not require council to make amendments to the budget. That’s not a desirable state of doing business.”
This year’s budget meetings are held at Municipal Hall on March 8, 9, 22, 23, 29 and 30. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.