The Finance team’s most significant milestone between 2016 and 2017 was the implementation of substantive improvements to the budget process. The 2017 budget process developed a funded multi-year capital infrastructure plan that helps expand our capital perspective to a ten-year outlook, ensuring that the urgencies of today don’t overshadow the long-term needs of the community.
The budget process was also modified to better focus on zero-based budget practices and service level consideration, and includes a public engagement element for budget planning.
Solid Waste Utility
At the request of Council, Administration undertook a detailed evaluation of the alternatives to address perceived unfairness in having the cost of solid waste services in the County passed to users through taxation.
The alternative selected by Council was to move solid waste to a utility (user pay) system. It was discovered that in addition to addressing the concerns of Council the system would provide better control of access to our transfer station sites, further reducing costs.
A new card system and barcode scanners to scan the new Transfer Station cards onsite at all Transfer Stations were installed with supporting software. Invoicing and new card distributions were also completed in the Finance department.
The Finance department developed a budget policy that lays out significant improvements and clarity for the organization and the public regarding approach, timelines, public engagement, Council engagement and long range planning.
New budget software has been implemented to allow departments to track their budgets on a more regular basis without having to request Finance to generate individualized reports. This software also made significant improvements in time and quality to the budget creation process.
As part of the improved budget policy, in 2016 a public survey for input into the budget process was completed. Although participation in the survey was very low, improvements are being made to encourage participation in future budget surveys.
The Finance department led the creation of the Multi-Year Capital Infrastructure Plan. This ten year plan helps Council take a long range look at infrastructure priorities and planning.
For the 2017 budget presentation, improvements were made to the Budget Reporting process for Administration Council and the Public.
The collection of overdue outstanding accounts has greatly improved with departments working together to collect some accounts that have been on the books for several years. In working together, we have been able to approve payment plans for accounts that would have otherwise been uncollectable.
At the request of a Municipal Partner, a review of the Fire Services cost agreement was conducted. The findings of this review led to the creation of the Regional Fire Services Cost Matrix, which addressed equity concerns in the costing of this service.
Alberta Municipal Affairs, in an effort to promote excellence in municipal government supports an internship project with municipalities. In 2016, the Finance Department became a host to one of the finance interns. We are pleased to participate in this project and receive the benefits of having an intern on our team.
At the request of Council, Administration undertook a detailed evaluation of the potential of moving street lighting costs to a utility to address the perceived unfairness in having the cost of street lights in the County passed on to users through taxation. The conclusion of the review was that the option of a utility was deemed unsuitable at this time.
Each year, a complete financial audit is completed along with all provincial reporting requirements on Lac Ste. Anne County’s operations. Every year, the audit receives a clean audit opinion, positive comments from the Auditor and no concerns raised by the Province of Alberta.
For the 2015 Financial Yearend, the Finance Department needed to comply with the reporting requirements of new accounting guidelines surrounding Contaminated Sites.
Digital cheque signature software was implemented to streamline and modernize the payment vendors and contractors.