Billion dollar budget


We have tabled our first billion dollar budget for discussion at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.  A billion dollars!

"What is one percent of a billion dollars?" I asked at a meeting last night.

There are so many zeros involved that I had to use my trusty pen to work out the answer.  My ciphering confirmed that one percent of one billion is ten million. Wow!

With our growth as a community and the dynamic action plan we've adopted to transform our city centre, it didn't come as a surprise to me that we would cross that stratospheric fiscal marker, but it is still something to digest.

The question was asked of me as to whether this billion dollar budget was historic.  I suggested that using the word 'historic' was fair as crossing that particular economic line is illustrative of what we are going through as a community and region.  It reflects our determination to create a place that is desirable to call home.  At the end of the day, the amount is only a number.  It is the intent behind what has brought us to this number that is everything.

Our Municipal Development Plan sets out a vision for Wood Buffalo to emerge as a global model for sustainable living in the north.  There are four key words in that thought: vision, emerge, global and sustainable.  This fiscal plan serves to move us closer to that vision and supports each of those words in a multitude of ways.

Is it too much too fast? Are we taking on too much debt? Are the expenditures really necessary?  I'm sure there will be plenty of questions like these popping up around the water coolers and in the online chat forums.  They are all valid queries that need to be asked, answered, and eventually - when the budget reaches that point in the process - debated in the public realm.

My personal sense is that this is a time for action, for making bold decisions that will define Wood Buffalo for decades to come.  None of us can afford to get behind the growth curve again; it's an untenable place to be.

Behind the large numbers scattered throughout this budget - both in the operational and capital side - are the voices of tens of thousands of our citizens who helped create the strategic direction that Council approved and is now putting into action.  The rate of change between now and 2017 is going to be tremendous.

Are we still going to go through growing pains?  Absolutely.  Traffic issues will continue to make the commute time to and from work as unpredictable as the weather.  The availability of land will remain an ongoing concern as we work with the province to solidify the Urban Development Sub Region, or UDSR for short.  We will need more stores, more shopping options, more of a lot of things.  The intent of the 2013 Budget and Financial Plan - Financing the Big Spirit, Big Ideas, and Big Plan is to keep us moving in the right direction.

How do you ask questions or give your input?

1. Check out the plan by clicking here.

2. Forward your questions or comments to the Financial Planning branch by email: financial.planning@woodbuffalo.ab.ca, or by phone: 780-788-1589 during regular business hours.

3. Attend a public information session scheduled for Wednesday, November 28 from 4 pm to 8 pm in the Council atrium at Jubilee Centre.

This billion dollar budget is yours, mine, ours.  Everyone's voice deserves to be heard as we make the decision in December on the largest financial plan in our history.

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