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This article was published 14/5/2019 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
City councillor Kevin Klein’s call for a complete overhaul to the City of Winnipeg’s budget process — which he believes will save taxpayers "millions and millions of dollars" — has passed its first hurdle.
At a special meeting of the Assiniboia Community Committee Tuesday afternoon, Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) tabled a motion seeking to immediately stop the multi-year budget process currently underway.
"The motion has to go forward so we can stop what we’re doing. I’m not opposed to multi-year planning. I think we should do that. But I’m opposed to using our current template," Klein told the Free Press.
"The current process is broken, it lacks detail, there’s no drilled-down line items to base your decisions on. It’s not an inclusive budget. It doesn’t include all members of council."
Once that multi-year budget process is halted, Klein’s motion calls for an immediate "core services review" and the implementation of a "zero based budget system."
Committee chairwoman Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverly West) supported Klein’s motion, saying she agrees the current budget system is broken.
The motion passed unanimously with her support, since the only other member of the committee — Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston) — had an excused absence.
The matter will now go to the executive policy committee for another vote. If passed at that level, it would then move onto city council for a final vote.
Lukes bemoaned the fact that the current budget process leaves the members of council not on the mayor's executive policy committee in the dark.
"When you’re not involved in the process, it’s very difficult to come back and face the taxpayers and explain why this is being done," Lukes said.
Klein said a zero based budget has proven itself in "city after city after city." He noted the City of Calgary has reported saving more than $55 million after switching to that system.
"Zero based budgeting is not new, it’s part of the best practices that many cities follow across Canada. Everything has to be justified, so you’re wiping the slate clean and starting anew. That way you understand where every dollar is going and why it’s required," Klein said.
"What normally happens is you’ll find efficiencies. There are going to be some areas of spending where we might not really need to (spend) what we’re spending on."
Under the current system, the previous budget is used as a template every year when a new budget is set, Klein said. By contrast, under a zero based budget, you start from scratch and justify each expense anew.
The city is currently planning its first ever multi-year budget for 2020. Klein stressed that he’s not opposed to long-term planning, but thinks embarking on a multi-year budget under the current system would be a disaster.
He also doubled down on past claims the city "doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem," saying he’s not the only member of council with a "legitimate concern for the city’s financial future."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.