It’s another move to transparency and accountability but this time it’s internal and being moved forward by city management.
Chief Financial Officer Rob Philpott and Chief Administrative Officer Bob Ashley have set in motion a process that will see Summerside city councillors involved in budget discussions from the outset and not mid-way through the process.
Under the old process, the chief administrative officer and the chief financial officer would meet with the department heads individually to go over budget requests for the upcoming year. The CAO and the CFO would develop a draft budget that they would bring forth to council for consideration. That was essentially it.
Although aware of the wish list provided by department heads, councillors didn’t have the opportunity to meet with them as they made their presentations for funding.
That has all changed. It will no longer be a two-man show.
Councillors are able now to sit in on all budget discussions between department heads and the CAO and CFO. They can have input into the discussions. Being able to meet one-on-one with the departmental directors gives councillors a sense as to what challenges each of their departments are facing and what the key areas of concern are for the upcoming year.
Input made by councilors would be part of the recommendations that will go forward to the full council for approval.
Council having the ability to have its collective hands on the budget process in its entirety is something that should have happened a long time ago.
In this last term of city council, there has been progress made in terms of transparency and accountability but it could have been better.
It’s a growing process and anyone who has raised children knows you must take the good with the bad. And this council and administration have grown.
A new CAO and CFO have brought new ideas and a different outlook to the city. Last December there was the first public information session on the city budget. It had never happened before.
Philpott described it this way: “We took some good lessons away from the public consultation process in that maybe next year we’ll do more of it. Based on some of the feedback we’ve heard from our partners in the business community and the general public it’s something that seemed very worthwhile and something they would like to participate in again.”
Now having the elected representatives of the citizens involved in the budget process from the opening bell is another sign of growth.