(Updated) The City of Vancouver’s proposed 2016 Operating Budget is for $1.264 billion and the Capital Budget is $325.2 million. That comes to about $2,100 and $540 per person, respectively.
There are various revenues from tax dollars and user fees. Property taxes are set to increase by 2.3%, while permits and user fees are all set to increase, some quite significantly. Are Vancouver citizens getting the best value for their money?
Councillor Geoff Meggs is Chair of the Finance and Services Committee. See the City’s web page for the budget: vancouver.ca/budget.
- A Budget Dialogue session was held on November 30, 2015.
- Dec 9, 2015 (Wed) 9:30 am: Special Council (2016 Budget). Agenda here. Note the “Administrative Report” (Nov 24), plus main budget document are listed, but detailed appendices are here.
- Dec 15, 2015 (Tues) 9:30 AM Regular Council. Council will vote on the budget. Agenda will appear here.
QUESTIONS AND FEEDBACK
Residents can send in questions or comments to staff or Council by calling 3-1-1 or emailing the addresses below:
To register to speak at the special council meeting on December 9, email your request to City Clerks at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 3-1-1. If you want to be more proactive, we encourage you to contact members of City Council directly by phone, e-mail, or even in person.
The City’s documentation contains a huge amount of information, and the main report and separate appendices are a vast resource for statistics. The municipal government is a large and complex organization, and a huge amount of effort has obviously gone into conveying the information in a readable form. But it seems Vancouverites would benefit from some independent, objective, detailed and critical review of Vancouver’s budget and financial reporting. Don Cayo’s recent article gives a taste of some fundamental issues regarding budgeting and reporting, and nothing will probably change without some citizen-based advocacy.
- Don Cayo: ‘It makes no sense’ how Surrey and Vancouver keep their books (with video) (Vancouver Sun, 18-Nov-2015). Excerpt: The financial figures bandied about by most City Halls don’t add up. Columnist Don Cayo explains why. Big Canadian cities, Surrey and Vancouver among them, are not only incredibly inconsistent in meeting their budget targets, but they muddy their accounting so badly that it is incredibly difficult to nail down just how far off-base their projections are.
- Vancouver eyes property tax, utility and recreation fee increases to fund $1.2 billion city operations in 2016 (Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 2-Dec-2015)
- Vancouver Police Struggling with Rising Costs (VanCityBuzz)
- Vancouver considers 2.3 per cent property tax hike for 2016 (Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, 26-Nov-2015
- Vancouver Police Department wants $260 million operating budget for 2016 (Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 25-Nov-2015)
- The Park Board Budget is up for review, $115 million in expenditures: Dec 8th: http://former.vancouver.ca/parks/board/2015/20151208/index.htm
We have systemic and structural flaws in City of Vancouver that can lead to inefficiencies, biases, sub-optimal allocation of funds, and (dare we say, theoretically) corruption. Most of the elected officials were handed power through expensive election campaigns funded by special interests (mostly, corporations and unions that stand to benefit from decisions of City Council, through procurement, zoning decisions, and contracts, etc.). On top of that, the budgeting and financial reporting systems are designed to prevent objective analysis and comparison. Then there is the lack of transparency in procurement processes. Vancouver has no lobbyist registry and lax reporting of gifts to politicians. To that backdrop add the recent changes to using “themes” for public reporting of the City’s finances, instead of reporting by budget line item, and you have a deeply ingrained system that could abuse taxpayers and benefit friends.
Vancouverites could use an independent budget review body that persists year after year. At present, we are aware of no systematic and consistent efforts to scrutinize the City of Vancouver’s annual budgeting and financial reporting. As a test, just try to find out exactly how much was spent by the Mayor’s office last year and for what purposes. If you are interested in supporting a more systematic independent review of the City’s annual budgets and reporting, please send us a note at citizenYVR@gmail.com
HIGHLIGHTS FROM CITY OF VANCOUVER
From the City’s statement to media, “highlights in the 2016 Operating Budget include $11.6 million of investments in new and enhanced services:
- $2.8 million to enhance public realm cleanliness
- $2.1 million to reduce permit wait times
- $1.9 million to enhance public safety (new fire boats, fire trucks and VPD digital evidence software)
- $1.0 million to enhance Park Board recreation program registration process”
“Highlights in the 2016 Capital Budget include:
- $59.1 million for transportation, including Burrard Bridge upgrades, the expansion and improvement of walking and cycling networks such as the South False Creek Seawall, as well as increased street lighting on local roads;
- $39.2 million for parks, open spaces and recreation, including the redevelopment of the North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the start of construction of the Killarney Seniors’ Centre in Southeast Vancouver, neighbourhood park renewals at Hillcrest and Riley parks, stakeholder consultation and preliminary design for Phase 1 Britannia Community Centre redevelopment, and preliminary planning and public consultation for the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre renewal;
- $29.5 million in affordable housing, including social housing in Southeast False Creek and the River District, planning for Roddan Lodge renewal, and capital grants for non-City owned social housing and Single Room Occupancy units;
- $24 million for community facilities, including as the new Strathcona Branch Library and the renewal of the Evelyne Saller Centre;
- $6.5 million for childcare, including the start of construction of the Lord Nelson Elementary School childcare facility and a new multi-purpose room for 30 childcare spaces at the International Village School site.”
“The 2016 Budget and Five Year Financial Plan will enable us to continue to make significant progress in advancing City Council and community priorities, including: 2012-2021 Housing and Homelessness Strategy, Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, Digital Strategy, Transportation 2040 Plan, Healthy City Strategy and the Vancouver Economic Action Strategy.”
According to a media release from the City, two of the most significant improvements made to the 2016 Budget are:
- The creation of a five-year financial plan that will enable strategic planning and decisions around investments, other revenue sources and business transformation opportunities, which also aligns with the financial plan periods used by other municipalities
- The consolidated budget is now reported in financial statement format, for comparability to the City’s financial statements.
The 2016 Budget also continues to integrate the best practice items that were recommended by PricewaterhouseCoopers when it was engaged in 2012 to identify leading practices in public sector budgeting to assist the City in providing comprehensive and understandable budget information.
You can read the 2016 Budget at vancouver.ca/budget.