Letter: Budget 2016: Fowl Play?

The Morinville Regular Council Meeting, November 24.

A wondrously ‘curious’ agenda.

We had it all. It was an eclectic dazzler.

Free-range cats and backyard chicken debates… valid issues sure to bring a fair share of opinion on both sides… a bike tour report, a seemingly endless list of by-law updates.

Budget 2016 was tagged on at the very end. Very last… and very late. Very odd.

What about that December 2014 Operational Effectiveness and Efficiency Review:

Meeting Management? “The Mayor needs to take a greater role in agenda development. It is critically important that agendas enable Council to focus on ‘big picture’ strategic issues.”(p.56). Uhh… Budget?

Budget Process? Morinville needs a review of base budgets and a new results-based approach to budgeting. (Pgs. 51,136). Happening? Not happening? Unclear.

Building Capacity? Administration’s “asks” seemed to interpret “building capacity” as hiring new staff. “Building capacity” usually does not equate to hiring new staff, but to further developing the skills and abilities of the staff you already have. The Review states that “the CAO is well positioned to meet her leadership responsibilities… without an additional executive position” and categorically rejects the need for a Deputy CAO position. (p.61). Oddly, a $93,000 “Strategic Initiatives Coordinator” position… requested by the CAO, for the Office of the CAO… is umm… somehow… not a Deputy CAO position?

New Positions? Only three additional positions are identified in the Review Implementation Summary: A clerical resource to augment administrative and legislative services (#3, p.139), a clerical resource to provide transactional HR services (#4, p.139), and a temporary resource to relieve the workload of the Director of Planning and Development. (#10, p.140). No other positions are recommended for 2016. The Executive Summary suggests additional resources in future for Finance… to improve long-term budgeting and the budgeting process. (p.15). Fair enough.
Core Information? Oodles. A 242 page Pot of Stuff assortment…just days before the meeting.

Council might want to direct Administration to prepare a one page Operational Budget Summary that compares dollar and percentage increases… or decreases…across five major categories from 2013-2018 inclusively:

1. Salaries, Wages and Benefits
2. Contracted and General Services
3. Materials, Goods and Utilities
4. Operational and Capital Reserves
5. Other Expenses. ($526,000 for 2016)

Comparative bar graphs are a standard best practice in financial reports. This task should take one hour tops. Administration should also be asked to prepare an “at a glance” Capital Plan for years 2016 -2021.

Core information builds Council and Community awareness by tracking organizational trends, identifying key challenges, and informing “big picture” discussions.


Strategic issues can be easily obscured when people are buried in piles of… items. Like cats, chickens, organic waste collection… and… bike tours… and…

This is not to say that these items are not important.

This is not to say that Citizens’ interests and passions on these concerns don’t matter.

It is to say, that a teeming agenda, that starts Budget discussions at 10:30 at night, is dizzyingly incomprehensible at best, and seriously troubling at worst.

Councillors, to their immense credit, were neither dazzled nor distracted.

They called it for what it was…

They also called for better information and a December 8th Agenda devoted to Budget 2016.
Good call.

Paul G. O’Dea
Morinville Resident

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  1. There are many people in our community that have great foresight, wisdom, and knowledge, that could be drawn upon, because they would offer up these skills to anyone who asked, freely.

    I include Mr. O’Dea as one of them.

    I know how the council and CAO relationship is supposed to work. However, getting input, suggestions or different points of view to draw your own conclusions from, can only help in making sound decisions. When the majority of information, guidance etc. is coming from one source, it is easy to not see outside the bubble. (I learned this after being removed from the process for a while)

    I agree with Mr. O’Dea, and thank him for all the work that went into his comments.

  2. Thank you Mr O’Dea for your insight to an alarming ongoing situation.

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