Column: No concensus on providing year’s figures, but lower tax hike …

by Ed Cowley, freelancer

So why hasn’t Morinville town council directed administration to make the previous year’s comparable figures a standard column in all financial reports? The first quarter report was received by council before it passed the 2022 taxation bylaw, but it failed to contain comparable figures for 2021 activity. While it did show the 2022 budget figure comparison, budget numbers are just projections.

The seven council members range from being in favour to opposed to a standard column in the financial statements showing the previous year’s comparable. Here is the explanation each offered.

“The quarterly financial report is meant to show the Town of Morinville’s financial performance for the current fiscal year in relation to the approved budget. The focus of in-year reporting is on budget to actual variance and ensuring the Town is on track to stay within the amounts approved by us as a council. Year over year comparisons is a greater focus for year end reviews and in particular Budget analysis to assess trends and make educated forecasts for future years,” stated Mayor Simon Boersma.

“Your question above makes sense to me and perhaps the previous year should be included for reference purposes. I will definitely give it some thought,” stated coun. Ray White.

“I appreciate the value of annualized comparisons. At the time of this report Council and administration had various discussions around financial reporting, including moving to tri-annual reporting which is intended to be a more informative reporting model. With the change, we will better be able to measure how our operating and capital budgets perform throughout the year, as such at the time, I did not have the need to direct administration to change the format of the previous reporting model,” stated coun. Jenn Anheliger.

“I cannot speak for why council as a whole has not put policy in for the monthly updates. I do see year over year in other reports in other groups I am part of. Certainly, opportunity is there to get comparisons where needed from the previous year’s quarterly reports,” stated coun. Stephen Dafoe.

“I will respectfully note that at our Committee of the Whole Meeting on June 21st I requested that administration include annual comparable figures in the 2023 Budget Presentation (including 2018 & 2019 when possible) during the Budget Principles and Guidelines Policy Review. I am mindful that an annual comparable may sometimes be difficult to capture given some of the organizational restructuring and 2+ years of COVID adjustments — but believe there’s value in seeing pre-pandemic figures for greater line-of-sight,” stated coun. Maurice St. Denis.

“These reports have been a snapshot of the previous cycle. We have been given multiple updates throughout the previous term and continue this practice in the new council term. Moving forward, a directive isn’t a bad thought,” stated coun. Rebecca Balanko.

“As for the year-over-year comparison I’m definitely in favour of that, I’ve even asked [administration] for comparisons for year-over-year and comparisons to neighbouring or similar municipalities on a number of different levels. I haven’t been too fond of the information that’s presented on those quarterly financial reports and I’ve talked about that a little bit in past meetings, seeing that we are in the search for a new CAO who will have a different reporting structure and different ways to present financial reports I was going to wait till the new CAO was in place and see what they would bring to us,” stated coun. Scott Richardson.

The value of a year-over-year comparison appears obvious for transparency to allow both council and the public to quickly recognize any significant changes. Footnotes to the financial statement can offer an explanation if administration feels it is needed. However the wide variation of council views lends doubt as to whether the previous year’s comparable numbers are wanted.

Since this is a democracy, the issue should be debated in open session and a directive given to administration regarding the use of year-over-year stats in financial reports.

Incidentally, a year-over-year comparison in the First Quarter Report would have made it quickly evident that a 5% tax rate hike was not needed in 2022 to achieve a balanced consolidated budget.

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2 Comments

  1. I am most concerned over a comment of “wait and see what is presented”
    I firmly believe it is councils responsibility to set standards and principles within which admin and staff must work to achieve the optimum balance for residents.

  2. Don’t know Jack **** about municipal government but it seems like all I see is the previous administration ran a shady operation and it appears that this administration is just as shady, wtf?

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