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Westlock County kick-starts budget process this week

Consultant hired for new process
WES county spring 2020
Budget discussions at Westlock County start today, when a consultant will present the new process to council.

WESTLOCK—Westlock County brought in a consultant for their 2021 budget, and they’re hearing her recommendations at a governance and priorities meeting today.

“Basically, it’s cost-based budgeting. In the past, we have just taken previous budgets and kind of played with them and came up with new budgets. I mean, we looked at them in depth, if you look at last year’s budget book, it’s very comprehensive,” said deputy reeve Brian Coleman over the phone Sept. 11.

But with the new process, which he says normally takes a year to implement—the county is setting up a fast-tracked version—they’re not working from that anymore.

“You actually establish a set of priorities, establish your service levels, and then you try to base your budget on those two things.”

Both Coleman and reeve Lou Hall, whom the News spoke with separately on Friday, agree that this is a “challenging” time to be budgeting.

“Nothing is different than normal, other than the fact that we’ll be digging deeper into each and every line item. You know, we’ve got some challenges coming up,” said Hall.

“We have the police costing, we have the additional cost going to the town, we have at least $1 million lost in revenue that we’re budgeting for and it may be worse than that,” added Coleman.

Plus, there’s the reigning uncertainty about what will happen with linear assessment models. After a meeting with Municipal Affairs minister Tracy Allard, Hall says “we won’t know until the middle of October.”

“It’s going to be an absolute tough budget. But that’s all the more reason to put a process in place so you put your budget where your priorities are,” said Coleman.

Andreea Resmerita,