The Governance Manual institutionalizes an approach to governance that leads to The Ontario Plan serving as a business plan for the City.  The Manual includes a set of high-level governance principles with long-term value as well as Vision-driven goals and broad policies.  Together, the goals and policies support consistent City leadership sustained through time and succession.  The Governance Manual promotes the principles of regional leadership, transparency, long-term value, accountability, and inclusivity.


The City of Ontario is incorporated under State law as a general law city with a Council-Manager form of government.  The Mayor and Council are directly elected by the voters as their representatives. The City Council sets policy through the adoption of minute actions, resolutions and ordinances and determines the allocation of City resources through the adoption of the City Budget.  The Mayor and Council hire a professional administrator, the City Manager, to hire staff, advise them, implement their policies, and run the day-to-day operation of the City.  The Mayor and Council acting as a body, not as individuals, provide direction to the City Manager and staff in duly noticed public meetings.

Ontario Approach

The City of Ontario has a very definite approach to governance.  It begins with the realization that the City is a corporation. It may be a municipal corporation, but it is a corporation nonetheless.  The City operates using a corporate paradigm.

The Mayor and City Council are the elected board of directors.  They are responsible for making policy.  They hire a CEO, the City Manager, to advise them, implement their policies and run the day to day operations of the City.

We believe that the job of the City is to create, maintain and grow economic value.  We do this through the provision of infrastructure and services.  Everyone choosing to buy a home, shop, open a business or develop in our community has invested in our community.  They are our shareholders.  Their return on investment is the maintenance and growth of both quantitative (monetary) and qualitative (quality of life) value-added.  (Link to Complete Community)

Every action of the City and every interaction with current and potential shareholders is an opportunity to retain or capture their investment.


The Governance Manual:

  • Provides guidance for ongoing City leadership.
  • Describes how the City will operate in a business-like way.
  • Requires the decision-making system to always add value.
  • Integrates The Ontario Plan into the City’s daily operations.
  • Guides the budget process (the most tangible expression of the City’s commitments) towards the Vision.
  • Provides for effective administration of The Ontario Plan.

We believe in:

  • A clear Vision and Policy Plan which are communicated to City leaders, staff and the public, and serve as the foundation for informed decision making.
  • Stable, predictable, timely and effective governance is essential to achieving the Ontario Vision.
  • The Ontario Vision should guide community decisions.
  • Our job is to create, maintain and grow economic value, and we do our job by providing infrastructure and services.
  • Regular investment is needed to maintain the community’s public and private built environments.
  • Ontario is in competition with other cities for this investment.
  • The better we do our job, the more investment we will attract and the more revenue it will generate for reinvestment, creating a self-sustaining cycle.
G1 Decision Making

Ontario has succeeded in maintaining its leadership role through a system of decision-making that is based on communication, collaboration, and a clear understanding of and respect for roles within a Council-Manager form of government.  The City Manager meets with City Council Members on a regular basis to ensure that Council has the information they need for decision-making. Key Management Staff members submit their best professional advice and recommendations through reports and budgetary requests, generated through broad staff collaboration, to the City Manager who transmits them to Council after determining consistency with Council’s policy direction.  The Ontario Plan (which encompasses the Vision, City Council Priorities, Ontario Governance Manual, Policy Plan, Implementation Program, and Tracking and Feedback), together with the Annual Budget, helps decision makers at every level to make informed choices that move Ontario toward its long-term Vision.  In other words, the Plan is integrated into City operations at every level.

G1 Sustained decision-making that consistently moves Ontario towards its Vision by using The Ontario Plan as a framework for assessing choices.

Consistency with Policies. We require that staff recommendations to the City Council be consistent with adopted City Council Priorities (Goals and Objectives) and The Policy Plan.


Long-term Benefit. We require decisions to demonstrate and document how they add value to the community and support the Ontario Vision.

G1-3 Maintenance and Replacement Costs. We shall incorporate maintenance and replacement costs in the pricing of new programs and facilities as well as recording such deferred costs as debits against City revenues.




G2 Communication

Ontario’s disciplined and ambitious approach to communication is key to sustaining its role as a regional leader and achieving the Ontario Vision. Communication is not the same as information: communication involves sending and receiving; information may be only one-way. Thus, Ontario’s communication culture is one that focuses on the end-user and values accuracy, timeliness, credibility, clarity, and the capacity to exchange ideas. The intent of this culture is to enable the people and the decision-makers of Ontario to have the information they need to understand what is happening in their City, why it is happening, and what it means for the quality of their lives. It should also enable them to decide what to do in response to what the information tells them.

G2 Thoroughly informed and connected leaders, staff, public and shareholders.
G2-1 Quality. We require a professional standard of quality, no matter what medium is involved, to convey the sense and reality of accuracy, validity and honesty that befits this City.
G2-2 Accessibility. Our communications shall be designed to be easily accessible to end-users, including those with special needs such as hearing or visually impaired.
G2-3 Format.  Our communications shall be presented in whatever formats are best able to meet the needs of the end-users.
G2-4 Coordination.  We require coordination of communication activities and products among City departments so that coherent and internally consistent information is delivered to end-users.
G2-5 Coherence.  We require a level of communication in which the information is understandable to the intended audience(s).
G2-6 Connection.  We require communications to include a means by which the end-users may provide feedback to the City or pursue further clarification.


G3 Implementation

Realization of The Ontario Plan and its Vision will not happen by accident.  Intentional actions are required.  Actions occur at two levels.  The first and most comprehensive carries out the policies of the Plan: initiatives, programs, organizational management, resource management, education and influence of other entities that actively move the City toward its destiny.  The second level is the administration of the Plan: applying the Plan’s policies to the City’s decisions so that development projects, budgets, public agency projects, City regulations and similar activities respond to Plan policies appropriately and do their share toward achieving the Ontario Vision.  Collectively, these actions are called implementation.


Thoroughly informed and connected leaders, staff, public and shareholders.


City Council Priorities. We shall set priorities and direct timely actions for implementing The Ontario Plan through periodic adoption of City Council Priorities (Goals and Objectives).

G3-2 Tools. We shall create and maintain state-of-the-art systems, procedures and technology that provide maximum leverage from City resources in implementing The Ontario Plan.
G3-3 Organization. We shall maintain a municipal organization under City Council direction that offers best professional practices and integrates The Ontario Plan and Vision into its operations.
G3-4 Administration. We shall operate a cost-effective system for administration of The Ontario Plan as proposed development plans, projects, and programs are considered by the City.

Interagency Cooperation. We shall collaborate with other initiatives and programs of other agencies such as local, county, regional, state and federal governments and non-profit agencies to the maximum extent possible toward implementing The Ontario Plan.

G3-6 Monitoring Development and City Master Plans.  We monitor development to ensure that it is consistent with City Master Plans (e.g., Water, Parks, Energy, Climate Action Plan, etc.) and The Ontario Plan.  The Policy Plan in particular will incorporate changes to Master Plans as they are updated periodically.


G4 External Factors

In order to achieve its Vision, the City of Ontario benefits from the dynamic environment of which it is a part, but over which it does not have direct control.  The context in which the City operates is remarkably complex and will become more so.  The City chooses to prepare for this reality by addressing external factors before they’ve had their impact, rather than taking a reactive approach. The key is an attitude of awareness, consciousness, and intent—all aimed at establishing an optimum posture regarding external factors as the future evolves.




Constant diligence in dealing with external factors impacting Ontario in a manner that contributes to the Ontario Vision.




Legal Mandates. We shall comply with legal mandates upon the City so that they are satisfied and make maximum contribution to the Ontario Vision.


Public and Private Partnerships. We shall engage in public and private partnerships where they offer opportunities for achieving the Ontario Vision beyond what could be achieved independently.


Awareness. We shall actively maintain awareness of the external forces impacting Ontario so that their positive impacts can be optimized, and negative impacts minimized.


Proactive Approach. We shall seek to influence external factors impacting Ontario sooner rather than later.


Multiple Projections. We shall maintain a range of future projections instead of a single forecast as a means of understanding and managing the forces of change and promote the same approach by other governments.


Interagency Cooperation.  We shall participate with regional governments, surrounding cities and other agencies in devising optimum strategies for addressing external factors of mutual interest. 


G5 Municipal Finance

No single action of a city government more meaningfully states its values and priorities than the budget by which it allocates City resources and reflects the Vision and City Council’s goals and priorities. The system of municipal finance includes:

Annual Budgeting Process.  The entire municipal finance system culminates in the preparation, adoption, and implementation of the annual budget.  The City intends its budget document to establish policy, guide operations, plan for future financial circumstances, and communicate to the City’s residents, businesses, and investors.

Capital Improvement Programming. To better manage large-scale investments, the City adopts an annual Capital Improvement Program that schedules engineering and design, land acquisition, and construction for large projects over the subsequent five years.

Cash Management. The process of managing cash inflows and outflows for proper collection, disbursement, and investment of cash. This involves deposits, reconciliation, and adherence to the City’s Cash Handling Policy.

Public Trust. The municipal finance system rests on a foundation of public confidence in the City’s ability to fairly and effectively manage municipal finances over the long-term.  The City preserves the public trust with clear and concise communications and transparent and accountable financial decision-making.

Fund Balance and Reserves. The City seeks to maintain certain levels of funds in reserve for unforeseen cash flow disruptions and for specific purposes, such as post-retirement health care expenses.  Reserves differ from “rainy day” funds, which are more like savings for periods of overall economic stagnation or retrenchment.

Revenue and Expenditure Forecasting. Key to effective budgeting, the City conservatively forecasts future revenues and expenditure needs and constantly tracks those assumptions.

Risk Management. The risk management program includes special funds for reserves to cover potential losses, risk control programs and activities, and self-insurance pools.




An easily understood, transparent, and accountable municipal finance system that implements The Ontario Plan, safeguards the City’s assets, and maintains the public’s trust and confidence.




Departmental Budgeting Requests. We require each department to submit an annual budget request free from reliance on one-time revenues (except for specific grant funded projects) and unsustainable revenue and deficit spending.


Department Budget Limitation. We will not commit to spending more than a conservative projection of recurring revenues for the City as a whole.


Limitations on Fund Transfers. The City Manager may transfer budgeted amounts between departments within any fund; however, we require the City Council approve any revisions that alter the total expenditures of any individual fund.


Cost Allocation Plans. We account for costs for administration, employment benefits, risk management, and support services through special funds, including reimbursements from special projects, funds, and contracts based on an annual cost allocation plan.


Investment Objective. We require safety of principal as the foremost investment objective; investment decisions shall seek to minimize net capital losses on a portfolio basis.


Investment Maturities and Available Resources. We will mitigate market risk by limiting the weighted average maturity of the fund consistent with the approved investment policy; the City’s fund will be structured to ensure that the City’s projected expenditure requirements for the next six months can be met with a combination of anticipated revenues, maturing securities, principal and interest payments and liquid instruments. 


Fund Balance Target. We expect the annual budget to maintain a minimum unreserved general fund balance in accordance with policies established and from time to time revised by City Council resolution; we maintain this unreserved fund balance to deal with unanticipated disruptions to cash flow and do not otherwise use this reserve.


Deferred Maintenance. We acknowledge current and cumulative deferred maintenance, if any, in the annual budget document.


Comprehensive Debt Strategy. We pursue a strategy to avoid or minimize bonded indebtedness against the General Fund and to finance capital improvement projects on a pay-as-you-go basis and through special funds, or, if warranted by magnitude and/or lifespan, through applicable special financing districts and mechanisms.


General Fund Purpose. We pursue a strategy to allocate general fund resources toward the City’s provision of basic municipal services.


Transparency. We expect our City’s budget and annual financial report documents to maintain the highest standards for clarity and content.


Investment Strategies. We utilize the Treasurer’s Investment Policy to establish strategies that guide how the City invests short-term cash flow and invests longer-term reserves.


Finance Department Responsibility. We require the Financial Services Agency review and analyze City Council staff reports to determine potential fiscal impacts.



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