Editorial - Timing for budget changes

We are now on the eve of December, and the last City Council meeting of November passed Monday, and there is still not a first look at the 2019 budget.

That is not particularly unusual, or though it was not so many years ago Council pushed to have its budget completed by the end of December.

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There were good reasons for those efforts, in particular the ability to send capital projects to tender early with a reasonable expectation of better deals because companies are securing work early.

But in recent years the budget decision by Council has slipped back into the new year.

There are again reasons for that, largely being a matter of knowing the numbers before Council finally passes the budget.

The numbers are much more elusive these days as just what the province will do is very much a mystery until their budget is declared and that is not usually revealed until the second quarter.

In 2017 we saw the impact first hand.

It was at the Feb. 2017 Council tabled the adoption of the 2017 operating and capital budgets until after the 2017 Provincial Budget was released in order for potential further grant funding decreases to be considered.

It proved a wise decision as on March 22, 2017 the 2017 Provincial Budget was released and it was determined that the City of Yorkton was going to realize a loss in revenue of close to $2.3 million. On March 31, 2017 the Government did cap the loss of the payments in lieu to the City of Yorkton at 30 per cent of its municipal revenue sharing amount. This added about $734,000 back into the City of Yorkton budget.

This year the budgets passed in February, although Council was aware there was a level of uncertainty based on what the province might do in its budget.

Those provincial numbers may well be under new pressures as the world price for crude oil has recently plunged. That is significant given the importance of oil in terms of provincial revenues in Saskatchewan.

There are indications the oil price dip could herald a global economic slowdown, and given the Saskatchewan government’s past difficulties hitting budget targets, that would put significant pressure on their plans to return to balanced budgets in 2019-20.

If the oil situation forces funding cuts municipalities may well be on the list to receive less and that impacts municipal budgets.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week

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