Budget 2025-2026

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* This is a growing page. Continue to check back throughout the budget process and follow along on our social media channels to learn how we build the municipal budget.


As we move through the process of developing, presenting and approving the 2025-2026 City budget, we are considering both Council's strategic priorities and the financial realities that both our organization and community are facing. We consider:

  • Our current financial state
  • Current priorities
  • Future priorities
  • External pressures

City Council has committed to six dedicated Committee of the Whole meetings on the topic of budget alone in 2024 to gain full understanding of our financial outlook, both now and into the future. Our budget is a balancing act – reflecting our commitment to ensuring the sustained prosperity and well-being of our community while ensuring fiscal capacity and flexibility to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.



Budget Theme

Therefore, this budget process is guided by the overarching theme of balancing the needs of today with the requirements of tomorrow. What do we need to do today to prepare for tomorrow to maintain our advantages that we enjoy today?



Budget Commitments

The following five commitments underpin the 2025-2026 budget planning process:

  1. Address community needs and ensure excellent service: Our foremost obligation is to our community. We must prioritize initiatives that address the pressing needs of our residents and uphold a standard of excellence in the services we deliver.
  2. Balance affordability with the need to invest in City infrastructure and operations: It’s important to strike the delicate balance between affordability for our residents and the requirement to invest in our city's infrastructure and operations. We must make prudent investments today to lay the groundwork for a prosperous tomorrow.
  3. Ensure financial sustainability of our municipality: Our municipality's financial health, without reliance on our energy production business unit, is essential for our long-term viability. We must be committed to reducing our reliance on volatile commodity revenues through responsible budgetary practices and prudent management of resources.
  4. Thoughtful use of reserves for future needs: Our reserves represent a critical asset for addressing future challenges and seizing future opportunities, including energy transition, abandonment and reclamation obligations, and Facilities for the Future. We will exercise thoughtful discretion in utilizing these reserves to meet the evolving needs of our community and clearly articulate the intent of these funds.
  5. Alignment with Council Strategic Priorities: We also need to ensure that every dollar we spend aligns with council's strategic priorities and our corporate strategic objectives. We’ve launched our integrated planning process that includes the long-range forecast, business cases for all new capital growth projects, a criteria-based process to rank all the projects, and departmental business plans based on objectives and priorities. This will help to ensure we are only undertaking projects that are needed for our community and create long-term value for the city.



Key Budget Assumptions

Key assumptions serve as the basic starting point for building the budget. They assume certain inflation rates, capital needs, investment in growth opportunities, etc.


* This is a growing page. Continue to check back throughout the budget process and follow along on our social media channels to learn how we build the municipal budget.


As we move through the process of developing, presenting and approving the 2025-2026 City budget, we are considering both Council's strategic priorities and the financial realities that both our organization and community are facing. We consider:

  • Our current financial state
  • Current priorities
  • Future priorities
  • External pressures

City Council has committed to six dedicated Committee of the Whole meetings on the topic of budget alone in 2024 to gain full understanding of our financial outlook, both now and into the future. Our budget is a balancing act – reflecting our commitment to ensuring the sustained prosperity and well-being of our community while ensuring fiscal capacity and flexibility to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.



Budget Theme

Therefore, this budget process is guided by the overarching theme of balancing the needs of today with the requirements of tomorrow. What do we need to do today to prepare for tomorrow to maintain our advantages that we enjoy today?



Budget Commitments

The following five commitments underpin the 2025-2026 budget planning process:

  1. Address community needs and ensure excellent service: Our foremost obligation is to our community. We must prioritize initiatives that address the pressing needs of our residents and uphold a standard of excellence in the services we deliver.
  2. Balance affordability with the need to invest in City infrastructure and operations: It’s important to strike the delicate balance between affordability for our residents and the requirement to invest in our city's infrastructure and operations. We must make prudent investments today to lay the groundwork for a prosperous tomorrow.
  3. Ensure financial sustainability of our municipality: Our municipality's financial health, without reliance on our energy production business unit, is essential for our long-term viability. We must be committed to reducing our reliance on volatile commodity revenues through responsible budgetary practices and prudent management of resources.
  4. Thoughtful use of reserves for future needs: Our reserves represent a critical asset for addressing future challenges and seizing future opportunities, including energy transition, abandonment and reclamation obligations, and Facilities for the Future. We will exercise thoughtful discretion in utilizing these reserves to meet the evolving needs of our community and clearly articulate the intent of these funds.
  5. Alignment with Council Strategic Priorities: We also need to ensure that every dollar we spend aligns with council's strategic priorities and our corporate strategic objectives. We’ve launched our integrated planning process that includes the long-range forecast, business cases for all new capital growth projects, a criteria-based process to rank all the projects, and departmental business plans based on objectives and priorities. This will help to ensure we are only undertaking projects that are needed for our community and create long-term value for the city.



Key Budget Assumptions

Key assumptions serve as the basic starting point for building the budget. They assume certain inflation rates, capital needs, investment in growth opportunities, etc.


  • How is the City's budget structured?

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    Four business units

    The City of Medicine Hat's finances are split into four distinct business units:

    1. Municipal:

      • The Municipal unit is in the business of improving the “quality of life” for its residents by providing governance, safety, roads, amenities, and facilities that residents rely upon for their daily lives
      • Primary funding source is property taxes
      • Cost-recovery model
    2. Land Development & Real Estate

      • Purchases land and develops it within the City for sale
      • Revenues are primarily driven by real estate market
    3. Rate-Based Utilities

      • Operating Segments: Water, Sewer, Solid Waste, Electric Distribution, and Gas Distribution
      • Rates are set using AUC rate making principles that establish the formula for calculating utility rates
    4. Energy Production

      • Operating Segments: Electric Generation and Gas Production
      • This is the group that generates electricity and supplies gas.
      • Rates are driven by market forces and therefore have a greater degree of risk and reward for the City.


    Two types of budgets for each

    Each business unit above will include two different types of budgets:

    1. Operating - like your traditional income statement highlighting the City's annual revenues and expenses. When we refer to 'budget gap' we are referring exclusively to the Municipal operating budget. The approved operating budget authorizes spending which has an expiration at the end of the budget cycle.
    2. Capital - identifies capital and infrastructure projects like rehabilitation of existing roads or the purchase of a new rec facility. Unlike the municipal operating budget capital budgets do not expire at the end of the year but carry on to the end of the project. In addition, a funding source must be identified for the capital project.

    The City further classifies those budgets as follows:

    Tier 1: Base Operating and Sustaining Capital

    • Maintain status quo services and infrastructure
    • Established by reviewing prior year budgets and spending trends and applying inflation

    Tier 2: Operating Initiatives and Growth

    • How the City intends to invest its time and finances to introduce new services, programs or capital infrastructure for the City
    • Tied to Council’s Strategic Plan and thus the primary focus of deliberations with Council

    Tier 3: Other Items

    • Amortization, interest on debt, etc.,
    • Driven by tier 1 and 2 as well as other assumptions
    • Typically a supporting act for other discussions thus are typically not highlighted individually


    Reserves

    It is important to understand why we need to keep reserves:

    1. Future asset planning
      • The City of Medicine Hat invests an average of $110M every year in capital projects, but that investment can vary greatly by year depending on the needs each year. It is prudent management to store funds away every year to help pay for capital when it arises as opposed to expecting residents to pay as these expenses arise.
      • For example, if you lived in a condo, your condo board may expect to have to replace the roof 20 years from now, instead of making the condo residents pay the whole cost of the expensive roof repair all in the same year, they may decide to start collecting now and spread the cost over 20 years. The city does the same thing with its reserves.
    2. Help the City to grow
      • Beyond asset planning, the reserves also provide an opportunity for the City to expand services, amenities, neighbourhoods and much more to improve the quality of life of its residents. Reserves afford the ability of council to designate funds for future projects.
    3. Contingency
      • Municipalities are not allowed to run deficits (governed by the Municipal Government Act). In years where the City doesn't collect enough revenue to cover costs, we use reserves to cover the gap.
      • In the City of Medicine Hat we have been working hard to close the budget gap, however, even with a closed gap, there is still the possibility that the City could reach an operational deficit in a given year due to things like an unusually bad investment year, damages from a storm, flood or drought, or even an unusually snowy winter resulting in more snow removal than planned.
    4. Offset liabilities
      • Reserves are only one half of the balance sheet. The City also has liabilities.
      • At the end of 2023, the City had over $770 million dollars in financial liabilities. And the that only includes the liabilities that the City is legally liable for. It does not include costs like: The future costs to replace our aging infrastructure, or energy transition.
      • One way that the City tries to communicate its future liabilities is by restricting funds for future use. As a part of this years budget we will be recommending the designation of reserve funds to help pay for some large future costs that the City needs to consider to fund the requirements of tomorrow.
    5. Reduce debt
      • Debt is a lot more expensive than it was four years ago during the last budget cycle.
      • When the cost of debt is high, utilizing reserve funding can help reduce the burden on future generations for debt principle and interest payments.
    6. Steady, predictable tax increases
      • Reserves provide the ability for the City to plan for steady predictable tax increases by allowing the city to weather some of the impacts of inflation and to catch up its revenues over a more steady time period.
    7. Reduce the budget gap
      • Reserves reduce the budget gap by providing a base for investment income. Interest on investments can be funneled back into the regular budgets without having to draw on the principle.

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  • Budgeting in a municipality

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    When budgeting in a municipality it is important to keep in mind that municipalities are unique.

    Municipalities must budget to operate indefinitely.

    The Municipality provides the basic foundational services that make it possible for people to live and work in Medicine Hat. As long as the City exists, so does the municipal corporation. Thus, the City must budget in a way to ensure it is around 100 years. Typically that, when budgeting, we must be conservative in our approach.

    By law Municipalities cannot run a deficit.

    We are allowed to dip into savings if we have savings but, if the Municipality is to survive indefinitely it cannot rely on savings forever. Thus we must budget in a way to ensure we can live within our means.

    Typically a City only has two main options when it comes to balancing its budget, savings or taxes.

    Thus the City is limited in the services it can provide by the amount of property taxes it is able to collect. The taxpayer’s tolerance for paying property taxes puts an upper limit on how much the City is able to do.

    What makes us different than provinces and the federal government is that, by law, we are only allowed to issue debt to pay for capital projects.

    Therefore, we are not allowed to cover cash deficits with borrowing. This is a basic mechanism to ensure that City’s do not over leverage themselves and remain financially sustainable.

    Finally the City has a clear mandate outlined in Municipal Government Act which identifies the core services it must provide.

    At minimum, the Municipality must provide the services as outlined within the act, which include things like providing safety, fostering good government, protecting the environment, and providing services and facilities and other things (such as roads and utilities).

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  • Watch: Council Committee of the Whole - Key Budget Assumptions

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    On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, City Council members gathered in a Committee of the Whole for the first of six planned engagements between City Council and the City's budget representatives before the 2025-2026 budget is approved.

    This meeting focused on aligning understanding of the key budget assumptions that will guide the rest of the budget process going forward.

    Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb2hp9RM5YM


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Page last updated: 01 May 2024, 09:56 AM