Whitehorse’s budget balancing act

The city’s books are in the black. At least they were last year. Administration released the 2010 audited financial statements, this week.

The city’s books are in the black. At least they were last year.

Administration released the 2010 audited financial statements, this week.

Under the new public sector accounting rules the city ended the year with a $3.7-million surplus.

The statements were supposed to be completed in June, but Whitehorse was granted an extension so it could inventory all of its assets, a requirement of the new accounting system.

Every road, plot of land and piece of infrastructure had to be valued and recorded.

“It was a major undertaking,” said Valerie Anderson, the city’s financial services manager.

The value of all those assets pushed the city into the black.

“Its not like we have $3 million stashed away in the basement of city hall,” said Robert Fendrick, the city’s administrative services manager.

Under the old accounting system, the city would have ended the year with a $42,478 deficit. 

But Fendrick pointed out that the deficit is less than one per cent of the total operating budget.

“It would have been nice to show a small surplus, but it’s basically a balanced budget,” he said.

That’s a far cry from this year.

In April, a Yukon Human Rights Adjudication Board ruling raised employee salaries, putting the city more than $800,000 in the hole.

It was the largest budget deficit in the city’s history.

Administration was forced to enact a series of austerity measures that restricted overtime, put off hiring new staff and delayed several infrastructure projects.

Thanks to those measures, the city should be back in the black by year’s end, said Fendrick.

But not everyone sees the city’s budget as so rosy.

After the budget shortfall was discovered, Coun. Ranj Pillai called for a third party to conduct an effectiveness and efficiency audit of the city, and to develop an accountability model.

Administration is still considering going through with that audit, said Fendrick.

“It’s really about clearly establishing and documenting the framework around which departments operate and matching up results with that,” he said. “It actually turns out we do a lot of that work already, so it remains to be seen whether we’re going to have to hire another consultant or if that work can be done internally.

“We may not have to go through a separate process, we may be able to just enhance the process we already have.”

Whatever the city decides, the work won’t start until the new year.

In the meantime, administration is working on an organizational review that will look at the capacity, resources and funding of all the city’s operations.

Right now administration is still shopping around for a consultant to do the work.

The $80,000 contract will be put out for tender later this month.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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