BERWICK – Township of North Stormont is hoping to have the first draft of the 2022 budget ready by the end of January 2022, as deliberations are set to begin in February.

During the Nov. 2 council meeting, Coun. Roxane Villeneuve asked about the procedure for the upcoming 2022 budget deliberations. She noted that director of finance Carly Wheeler is on leave until mid-December.  with deputy director of finance Amanda Alexander filling in for her during that time, Villeneuve wanted to know if anything would be done in the next six weeks. She also wanted to know if residents would have a chance to speak and ask questions earlier in the process.

“Within the past three years, since I’m an elected member of council, we haven’t been doing full public consultations with respect to the budget process,” Villeneuve said. “Only last year did we introduce deputations for the public to present prior to our final vote on the budget and, as you may recall, those budget public consultations happened only after draft two of the budget and in draft three that’s when we had the final vote. So, can you tell me a little bit more of how the process will take place this year?”

Chief administrative officer (CAO) Craig Calder answered Villeneuve’s question, beginning by assuring her that all department heads are currently working on 2022 budget sheets for their respective departments. With Wheeler away, Calder said staff won’t be completing the first draft in November as planned, but he believes there will be time when Wheeler returns for her to meet with each of the department heads, and to have a rough first draft completed.

“I believe we’ll be following the same process as we did last year,” Calder said. “With the initial draft being provided at the end of January, I’m hopeful, or early February, it’s certainly up to council if they’d like to shift the process from last year.”

Villeneuve reiterated her concern with public consultations not coming until after the second draft of the budget has been completed, which comes right before the approval of the third and final draft. Instead, she asked about having public consultations before the process begins.

“I think that there’s a process out there that’s pretty well adapted by just about every other municipality, and I’m pretty sure that we’re following fairly close to that, but we can verify that, and we have ample time,” Mayor Jim Wert said, before asking Calder to investigate what neighbouring municipalities’ budget processes look like.

Deputy Mayor François Landry pointed out that everyone on council had been voted into their position by residents to make decisions, including those relating to the budget. He also noted that residents can contact any council member about concerns prior to deliberations.

“We are out here to listen to what they have to say on a daily basis,” Landry said.