In my work as a Certified Financial Planner, I regularly talk to my clients about the importance of good money management. Whether it’s a household, a corporation or a city, sound financial management is essential to success.
The City of Spruce Grove’s budget – our corporate plan – is the most important thing we do. It guides governance, community development and service delivery. It affects everything else. We do annual budgets and project two additional years for longer-term capital and operations spending. The City used its 2015-2035 strategic plan in building the 2017 corporate plan.
Our budget provides a framework for maintaining existing service levels, while meeting the increasing needs of a growing community. We strive to minimize tax increases while still providing the services required to keep Spruce Grove as The Community of Choice.
It’s not council’s job to analyze the budget line by line; we focus on the big picture. Your elected officials have a lot of experience at this, with a collective 114 budgets under our belts – and hundreds and hundreds of total hours in preparation work and budget meetings.
Budgeting is a balancing act to maintain existing services and add new initiatives while keeping costs down. We gauge community needs against the ability of our residents to pay. Our excellent staff start their work in March and council typically receives submissions from community groups in April. That’s when the heavy lifting starts. Council receives the proposed budget, meets with senior and financial staff and approval comes in November.
Are we successful? I’d say so. Our property taxes are among the lowest in Alberta. Our citizen-satisfaction surveys confirm that the Community of Choice is not just a slogan. Our independent survey firm tells us that the satisfaction of our citizens is one of the highest in Alberta.
We live in one of the fastest growing communities in the Edmonton region as newcomers are attracted by the same quality of life that brought you and me here. Our population growth has averaged about 5 per cent over the last decade. This represents a couple thousand more households each year that require services. New growth doesn’t pay for itself.
The City monitors the maintenance of existing infrastructure. Staff monitor and inspect everything from playgrounds to sidewalks to the water and sewer systems to ensure that our infrastructure is maintained and replaced or repaired as necessary.
Details are available on the City’s website at www.sprucegrove.org/corporateplan.