CityHallWatch calls on neighbourhood groups to review City budget 2016, capital plan to 2020

CoV 2016 Budget cover pageSCHEDULE

  • Dec 9 (Wed), 2015 9:30 am: Special Council Meeting (2016 Budget). Agenda here.
  • Dec 15 (Tues), 2015 9:30 AM Regular Council Meeting. Council will vote on the budget.

ACTION

  • Review documents, then sent in your questions and comments to City Hall. (E-mail Finance staff at budget@vancouver.ca, or Council at mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca)
  • Further reading and web links on CityHallWatch here.

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CityHallWatch is urging neighbourhood groups and concerned citizens to review the City of Vancouver’s 2016 budget and five year financial plan. It’s important. Perhaps neighbourhood associations have a special role to play here.

Reportedly, about six people attended the budget information session in the evening of November 30. That’s about one citizen per 100,000 people in Vancouver. This type of turnout is typical for budget presentations in Vancouver. Is it that few people had heard about the meeting? Was the City’s prior outreach adequate and with enough substance? Are citizens happy with the City’s finances? Do citizens have a good grasp of the situation? Are people overwhelmed with the details? Even an hour spent searching through the materials might turn up some interesting information and questions.

Perhaps in a smaller city, citizens could get a better grasp of the a smaller budget’s revenues and expenditures, but with a budget over the billion dollar mark, perhaps Vancouver’s is too demanding for disparate individuals to deal with the scale of things. Perhaps neighbourhood associations could play one valuable role here by focusing on the implications for their communities. What is planned in the next year, and next five years? What is included? What is missing?

At the November 30 meeting, the City’s Finance Director Patrice Impey explained the operating and capital budgets for 2016, plus revenues and expenditures, a proposed tax increase of 2.3%, and Vancouver’s economic and financial outlook. This type of meeting is typically held just once at this time of year, but citizens don’t need to limit their budget scrutiny to just this season.
CoV 2016 Budget CONTENTS list

Don’t let the 417 pages of the report and appendices scare you. Citizens could benefit by being more involved in budget oversight. Sure, it’s $1.264 billion of expenditures in 2016, and $325.2 million in the capital plan for 2016. In addition, the 2016 Property Endowment Fund (PEF) budget is for $49.9 million. And this year the New Capital Projects/Programs and Continuing Projects/Programs looks ahead for five years 2020 for a grand total of $1,685,746,283. That is a lot of information, and a lot of money.

But the budget shows where the municipal government is committing the public resources.

One way to deal with the huge amount of information might be to pick your neighbourhood of interest, or the specific themes your group or you personally are concerned about. The City’s PDF formatted documents are easy to search through for your key words. (In Adobe Acrobat, CTRL + F let’s you search forward and back one by one, but CTRL + SHIFT + F produces a handy search list for you to click through.)

For example, one might consider the West End. Here are just a few observations the might give some ideas about reviewing the budget implications for a neighbourhood.

After a couple years of consultation, the West End Community Plan was adopted in November 2013. This is a thirty-year plan for the neighbourhood. Does the 2016 budget and five year financial plan mention some benefits for the West End? Thousands of new residents are on their way as a result of scores of major development projects already approved or now in the pipeline. Does the budget include mention of the needs and concerns of the community? Seniors? Children? Families? Housing? Recreation? Heritage? Safety? Transportation? Community centres? Libraries? Pools, whether indoor or outdoor?

There are rumours circulating that the Vancouver Aquatic Centre is to be demolished and rebuilt outside the West End. But the VAC does not appear once in 447 pages. The West End Community Plan includes a Public Benefits Strategy of $585 to $630 million over the next 30 years. No mention of that for the period 2016 to 2020. Under “Public Safety” in the Community Plan, $20-25 million are earmarked for “Fire Halls” (“Renewal of existing amenities and infrastructure”), but the financial plans to 2020 make no mention of that, and in fact there are rumours the West End may be actually losing one of its two fire trucks. That kind of stuff needs some further investigation.

Interested groups and individuals could contact Mayor and Council now or at any time of year for more information or to convey their concerns.

Also:

Email Finance staff at budget@vancouver.ca
Email Council at mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

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Other excerpts from the draft papers, specifically mentioning “West End.”

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2016 CAPITAL BUDGET AND FIVE-YEAR FINANCIAL PLAN
4. Community Facilities: Libraries, Social and Cultural: $24.0 million, p111/348
Over the four years of the 2015–2018 Capital Plan, the City plans to:
Create a new and expanded Qmunity, a facility for the lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual and queer communities in the city’s West End; and,
Cityside Neighbourhood Energy Strategy, p224/348
Other areas — Creative Energy, with the City, plans to initiate a feasibility study to expand NES into the West Georgia Street corridor (the West End Community Plan area).

Major Accomplishments of 2015…
Engineering – Public Works, p229/348
Public and stakeholder engagement began on projects including Phase 2 of the Seaside Greenway completion project (which focuses primarily on walking), as well as improvements to Davie Village. Proposed improvements advance the West End Community Plan and include a permanent design for the new Jim Deva Plaza;

Staff are also following through on commitments made in Transportation 2040 and the West End Community plans to make it easier for residents and visitors to find parking in the West End in a manner that does not encourage more driving overall. An initial round of public engagement is planned for the fourth quarter of 2015.

P231/348
Parking
Staff are also following through on commitments made in Transportation 2040 and the West End Community plans to make it easier for residents and visitors to find parking in the West End in a manner that does not encourage more driving overall. An initial round of public engagement is planned for the fourth quarter of 2015.

P233/348
2016 plans
Parking
Complete engagement and begin implementing improved management of residential and visitor parking in the West End;

P256/348
Non-market Housing
In addition, through the implementation of various community plans, the City continues securing affordable housing units through inclusionary zoning policies and community amenity contributions (CACs) from rezoning. As a result of the community plans, there is growing interest from developers in partnering with the City and other non-profit housing operators to deliver social housing in the Downtown Eastside and West End neighbourhoods.

Planning and Development Services, p278/348
Achievements of 2015
Implementing the three community plans adopted in 2014, which continued to stimulate development activity in the Marpole, Downtown Eastside and West End neighbourhoods;

Meanwhile, the staff report for December 9, 2015 does mention a couple items in

Also,

Community Amenity Contributions from the West End are indicated in the staff report to Council.

http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20151209/documents/spec1a-report.pdf
Rezoning of 1600 Beach Avenue and 1641 Harwood Street
$0.24 million

Rezoning of 1754-1772 Pendrell Street
$0.25 million

There is also mention of Capital Grants in the West End.

Gordon Neighbourhood House To provide funding toward urgently required building envelope repairs and interior renovations
$1,100,000

and

Qmunity – BC’s Queer Resource Centre To assist with the process of identifying and designing a new and expanded purpose-built facility.
$200,000

It appears that the above are the main items for the West End.

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