Budget – The Opening Scene

Budget season has begun.  The City of Barrie has about a $170M annual operating budget and lest anyone think Council doesn’t get a lot of detail – the budget binder is 4 inches thick.  My new cross-training regime is carrying it home and back every night.

It details every service that the City delivers and what it costs to deliver them.  Police services is the largest chunk, about 25% of the total budget.  The County of Simcoe’s services (Ontario Works, land ambulance, social housing, and Homes for the Aged) together are about another 13% of the budget.  The Fire Department is 11%.  Virtually everything else the city does – roads, parks, rec centres, streetlights, libraries, sidewalks, transit, building permits, planning, economic development, clerks’ office – everything – gets done for the remaining 50% of the budget.

This year, for the first year, there are benchmarks built right into the budget, to show whether Barrie’s service levels are above or below average.  On page 65 of the budget is data that compares our performance by service to 18 other Ontario cities.  By measuring where we are above or below average, the City can target areas that most urgently need improvement, or where we are doing particularly well.

Service partner presentations are the 21st (Police, County).  Then Council debates the budget on March 28th – and we will certainly not be short on information.  It’s now up to Council as to how well we use it to make good decisions.