By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on November 9, 2021.
A closed-session special meeting of city council held Monday produced no action, but will put budget amendments for 2022 on the public agenda sooner than expected.
The new group of city council members was sworn in on Nov. 1 at a largely ceremonial organizational meeting.
At that time it was believed most official work of the term would officially begin at the first scheduled regular meeting on Nov. 15.
However a special meeting for Nov. 8 was listed on the official schedule published by the city clerk’s office, a requirement when council officially convenes a meeting.
Administrators tell the News it was a legislative tool to move several items on to the open agenda at the mid-month meeting, rather than waiting another two weeks via the regular process. Items are typically introduced at one meeting then debated at the next.
Items discussed Monday include a potential lease agreement, a land sale proposal (the details of which are both considered covered by freedom of information legislation), as well as an initial presentation on the budget update for the 2022 fiscal year.
City budgets are four years in length, and the next will be drawn up ahead of the 2023-2027 period.
Each year however, adjustments are made and budget authors provide estimated tax rates required to fund the budget the following spring. Last year, council approved $15 million in cuts to maintain the tax rate at 2019 levels while accessing less reserve cash to balance the budget. At that point they instructed finance officials to seek out another $8 million in cuts to completely balance the budget in 2022.
Also, each December, the city’s utility division provides an updated business plan, forecasts and fee changes for the coming year. Those need to be approved at two consecutive meetings before they come into effect on Jan. 1.