How City Budgets Work
Women Contributing to Good City Budgets
Women in communities around the globe are taking a look at the budgets of their governments and calling for changes that will better meet the needs of women, their families and communities.
Why now?In recent years, responsibilities have been passed down to municipal governments without adequate resources, so services are being cut. This has a particular impact on women in many ways.
We take on more work as family caregivers and community volunteers. We see erosion in our standard of living, as it is largely women who work in these “caring” professions. We find it more difficult to access services to meet the needs of our families. Gains women have made in addressing issues of violence against women, and accessing high quality childcare are all threatened.
Women living in poverty, women with disabilities,women of colour, immigrant and refugee women feel these changes most. Our ideas and experiences need to be heard.
Why the budget?
The budget is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about our quality of life and our communities.
Ottawa’s city budget is a blueprint for how our property tax dollars will be spent. It spells out the priorities for the municipal services and programs that we have come to depend on each and every day.
Think about it. The water we use each morning, the bus we take, the park where we picnic, the after-school programs our kids attend, the paramedics who respond to an emergency in our neighbourhood, the local public library we visit, the public health nurse who visits, the community centre where we attend a public meeting — these are all services provided by our city budget.
A city budget is like a household budget. We have to take a look at our needs, the amount of income we have, any savings put away and then decide what is possible.
A budget is made up of four parts:
- Operating Budget - This is like your monthly bills: rent/mortgage, heating, water, electricity, clothing, laundry, food, child care, medicines, car repairs – you name it!
For the city, it’s the day-to-day operations, including programs and services such as administration, policing, public health, recycling and recreation.
- Capital Budget – This is like the money you need to pay for repairs on your home, replace a car, a broken alarm clock or mend a broken fence. If you buy a home, it’s the down payment on the mortgage.
For the city, it includes the City's costs for buildings, vehicles, roads, sewer, bridges, community centres and parks.
- Revenue - This is like the total income of your household.
For the city, it includes taxes, federal funds and fees charged to use services.
- Reserve Funds – This is like your savings, pension, retirement fund, RRSP’s, if you are fortunate enough to have some. The money to fall back on when you need it.
For the city, it is their cushion to deal with unexpected expenses.
Each year, the City goes through a budget process to determine how much it will need to spend on a daily basis (operating budget); how much to repair or purchase buildings, roads, and sewers (capital budget); and how much money it has to do these things.
Women's eyes on the budget: Our ideas and experiences need to be heard
Women in the community are bringing their concerns to the attention of city decision makers. We are helping the city to consider what is needed to ensure we have a caring, inclusive and women-friendly city that respects diversity. Through consultations with women from diverse communities and organizations, we develop and present our views to city decision makers.
The views expressed here are the views of the community participants in CAWI, and not necessarily those of the city staff participating in the work of CAWI. To review the reports on city budgets please click here.
Glossary of terms
Glossary of terms for understanding the City Budget pdf
Where Government’s Get Their Money
Where Governments Get Their Money pdf