Independent C.D. Howe Institute places Niagara Region’s budget reporting practices among the best in Canada

Niagara Region’s 2017 budgetary reporting practices received a grade of A- according to a recently released report from the independent third-party C.D. Howe Institute. 

The C.D. Howe Institute is a non-profit policy research organization that is committed to improving the living standard of Canadians through sound public policy solutions. The 2017 report, Fuzzy Finances: Grading the Financial Reports of Canada’s Municipalities, provides letter grades and recommendations to many Canadian municipalities for their practices related to reporting and presentation of the annual budget.  

The report has many key focuses. Some of the major areas including municipal practices related to: 

  • ​Explaining the complexities of the budget in an understandable way
  • ​Use of plain language
  • Consistency in reporting across an organization
  • Use of comparisons to previous years
  • Making budget presentations in a timely manger 
  • Being fully transparency to ensure residents, stakeholders and councillors have a clear picture of how money is being spent
Niagara Region’s 2017 budget fared well, earning a highly respectable score of A-. This represents a noteworthy improvement when compared to the 2016 budget which had been given a score of B-. Out of a possible 20 points, Niagara Region received 14.

Some of Niagara’s areas of strength and improvement include:
  • Moving all budget documents online in a web-friendly, accessible format as opposed to the previous practice of using inaccessible PDFs. This change is keeping in line with the Region’s commitments under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
  • Clearly presenting both the net and gross budgets in its documentation to councillors and the public to understand the full financial picture
  • Clearly articulating what was spent in previous years for both the operating and capital budget
  • Passing the 2017 budget three weeks early (Dec. 8, 2016) well before the beginning of the fiscal year (Jan. 1)
  • Publishing all budgetary reports on the previous year in a timely fashion (by May, 2017)
  • Publishing a table that reconciled budget actuals as compared to projections
Out of the 28 municipalities reviewed in the report (the most populous in Canada), Niagara Region fared better than 22 of them. 

The report also provides many areas of suggested improvement for all of Canada municipalities. Niagara Region staff are closely reviewing the suggestions to identify ways the budget process can be improved in future years.

The C.D. Howe Institute score is in line with other independent reviews of Niagara Region’s budget documentation, including the Region’s receipt of the Government Finance Officers Association award of distinction for budget presentation earlier this year.

Quotes

"The report from the well-respected C.D. Howe Institute reaffirms that we are certainly on the right track with how we present and report the Region’s annual budget. While these results are positive, and represent a significant improvement from 2016, I know our professional and talented staff will continue to refine their practices to ensure we remain among the best in Canada."
~ Alan Caslin, Regional Chair
"This report confirms that Niagara Region’s practices related to the presentation and communication of the annual budget are among the best in the country. I am proud to say that our budget is both open and transparent, ensuring our residents, business owners, stakeholders and elected officials truly understand how we are spending their money. I look forward to continuing this trend in 2018 and beyond."
~ David Barrick, Budget Review Committee of the Whole Chair

Contact

Daryl Barnhart, APR
Niagara Region
289-969-3441
daryl.barnhart@niagararegion.ca


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