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Interview with Nancy Taylor, Director of Finance/Treasurer

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We asked the Director of Finance to answer a few questions about Clarington's budget process. Here's that conversation.

What's are some of your challenges as you prepare for the annual Municipal Budget process?
Two in particular come to mind. The first is the condition of assets and what is referred to as the "infrastructure deficit". We need to ensure that our assets are kept in a good state of repair for public safety. The second challenge is determining the inflationary impact on utilities, wages, fuel, etc.
Traditionally, how long is the budget process, when do you begin planning and working on the Budget?
The budget work is almost a continuous process. It will commence in early summer (June) and receive final approval the following February/March.
The Budget consists of Priority A and Priority B items. Who sets out the priorities and decides what column items fall under?
The Director of Finance initially sorts items into Priority A and B and then reviews with the CAO and Department Heads to receive input on determining what is required/mandatory versus highly recommended.
The Municipality has reserve funds, are there any rules regarding allocation of those funds and how they are spent?
Each reserve fund was established for a specific purpose, approved by Council. The Municipal Act, set out by the Province, lays out basic rules. Primarily, reserve funds are spent on capital infrastructure and secondarily, on rate stabilization. Essentially we save up for big items in reserve funds and spend the money when the project is needed to be done.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the Municipal budget process?

The first misconception would be that the Municipality should be able to have no increase in taxes but still be able to provide the same level of service. We are faced with similar cost pressures as homeowners when it relates to utilities, fuel, etc. as well as collective bargaining processes.

The other main misconception is that a budget increase is the same as a tax rate increase. The budget increase is an amount needed to pay for increased costs after all possible increases in revenues (non-tax) are taken into consideration. This increase is spread across all property types so is not an automatic residential property tax increase of that percentage.

How would you compare Clarington's tax rates to the rest of Durham area Municipalities?
Rather than comparing tax rates (although we are fairly consistent), it is more important to compare the taxes paid on a similar property across municipalities since both tax rates and assessed values are factors in the ultimate taxes paid. Clarington compares very favourably in this area.
Finally, the Federal Minister of Finance always gets a new pair of shoes when the Budget is delivered in the House of Commons, do you get a new pair of shoes?
I actually ensure that I am wearing a very comfortable, worn-in pair of shoes. If I am going to be "on the hot seat" for lengthy debates during Council, I would prefer not to have the distraction of blisters!
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