Priority Based Budgeting – Early Thoughts

As noted in the City of Victoria’s Budget at a Glance document:

The City is undertaking a new approach to the financial planning process, moving away from expense-based budgeting and towards budgeting by priorities, outlining services and capital projects, including the costs, revenues and benefits of each.

A fundamental component of this shift is alignment of the Draft Strategic Plan with the financial plan that has been put forward by the City of Victoria – the idea being, that instead of setting budgets that are based on previous/current costs and increased with inflation, they are set instead in response to identified operational priorities. This is why the recent news post from the City was for “public input” on both documents.

To facilitate in this public input process, I will be reviewing one strategic priority each day in accordance with the budget and other relevant documents. As a general introduction to the 2015-18 City of Victoria draft strategic plan, I also created a short video and I point you to my previous reviews of the strategic planning process to date with meetings that occurred on:

Inside the 2015-18 Draft Strategic Plan

Within the draft strategic plan, 13 key objectives are identified as a way of giving shape to the following overarching goal statement:

Victoria is a leading edge capital city that embraces the future and builds on the past, where human needs and the environment are priorities, where the community feels valued, heard and understood and where City Hall is trusted. Victoria is a city that is liveable, affordable, prosperous and vibrant, where we all work in partnership to support opportunities and get things done.

These objectives include:

  1. Innovate and Lead
  2. Engage and Empower the Community
  3. Strive for Excellence in Planning and Land Use
  4. Build the Financial Capacity of the Organization
  5. Create Prosperity Through Economic Development
  6. Make Victoria More Affordable
  7. Facilitate Social Inclusion and Community Wellness
  8. Enhance and steward public spaces, green spaces and food systems
  9. Complete a Multi-Modal and Active Transportation Network
  10. Nurture Our Arts, Culture and Learning Capital
  11. Steward water systems and waste stream responsibly
  12. Plan for emergencies including climate change short and long term
  13. Demonstrate Regional Leadership
Given the City’s focus on priority based budgeting, I find it odd that there no strategic priorities identified for Policing despite the police budget of $49,245,183 constituting nearly 1/4 of the City of Victoria’s $213 million dollar budget for 2015.
Also, as mentioned previously why is no operational information provided in the financial plan regarding the 2015 budget request for police operations? The only budget information that we are given in a vague powerpoint, and this hasn’t even been made part of the consultation materials available from the city – I had to link it from a previous meeting.

So what’s the issue?

According to the VicPD website, in their section on the Police Board, one of the main functions of the Board is to:
  • Play a key role in ensuring that the organization carries out its actions and activities in an acceptable manner.

Which within the language of Priority Based Budgeting – would be to suggest that a primary function of the police board (Chaired by Mayor Helps and Mayor Desjardins of Esquimalt) and the City of Victoria by extension, should be to ensure that police actives reflect community need from both an operational and financial management perspective.

An attempt by Councillors Loveday and Isitt to pass a motion during VicPD’s presentation of their 2015 budget to Council that it not be accepted due to the perceived rapid and disproportionate growth in costs was soundly defeated. And yet, it is also worth noting that at a subsequent Victoria GPC meeting, where a member of the VicPD was in attendance to speak to their 4th quarter operational report,  no discussion was invited by Council.

Further, the only VicPD related content identified in the Draft Strategic Plan is a 2015 action under the objective of Facilitate Social Inclusion and Community Wellness:

The City facilitates a collaboration among Island Health, VicPD, YES2SCS, and City of Victoria to create supervised consumption services embedded in a continuum of health care services, including harm reduction.

So what could/should be done?

Given the community interest in such things as Integrated Policing as driven by the Amalgamation Yes group, and given the emphasis by Council on priority and not expense based budgeting as well as their support for the Amalgamation group, it is almost surprising that looking at the police budget isn’t listed as a primary action under their strategic priority of  Innovate and Lead –  Objective # 1 in their Draft Strategic Plan.

If our council really wants to innovate and lead so badly, shouldn’t they be doing so in relation to our second biggest cost driver (e.g., the police department)? Displaying such Innovation would also be consistent with their Objective 13 – Demonstrate Regional Leadership.

We will be looking at this strategic priority of Innovate and Lead more tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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