Consultation begins on Vancouver’s 2019 City budget ($1.5 billion operating + $568 million capital): Briefing Dec 3, meeting Dec 11, vote Dec 18

 

 

 

 

 

[Updated – The public briefing went ahead Dec, and Council meeting Dec 11. Final vote is slated for Dec 18.]

Reference: Mayor Kennedy Stewart supports 4.9 per cent property tax hike; Property owners also facing utility fee hikes for sewer, water and solid waste fees (https://www.vancourier.com/news/mayor-kennedy-stewart-supports-4-9-per-cent-property-tax-hike-1.23529974)

The City of Vancouver is inviting public input on our 2019 budget. Below is text from an official release from the “Civic Engagement and Communications” department.

This is big stuff. The draft 2019 operating budget is $1.516 BILLION and capital expenditure budget is $568 MILLION (including new and ongoing capital projects).

This is important as the first opportunity for public input on the civic finances since Vision Vancouver was ousted from City Hall. Thus, it is a chance for fresh analysis, examination, dialogue, and public impact on how your money is spent and reported.

Main web page for Vancouver budget: vancouver.ca/budget. 

See direct links for budget-related documents at bottom of this post.

The public is invited to …

  • Write questions and comments to Mayor and Council
  • Attend a briefing presented by City staff on Monday, December 3 from 5:30 to 7 pm at City Hall, Main Floor, Town Hall Room 110 (also streamed live on City’s Facebook page) [Tip from CityHallWatch: Free cookies, tea, and coffee. In recent years this briefing attracted just 5 or 10 citizens, so let’s show some serious interest this year, folks!]
  • Speak at a special City Council meeting December 11 when staff present the budget. [Tip: Business improvement associations and unions always show up here or at the next meeting, typically to discuss the money they expect to receive. It would be great to see taxPAYERS and citizens get more organized, analyzing the budget, preparing, attending, and speaking.]
  • Attend a Regular Council meeting on December 18 where our elected officials are scheduled to vote on the 2019 Budget. [Tip: The public should attend this meeting as well. Last year, Vision Vancouver proposed last-minute tax increases just minutes before the Council vote — increases that not even whispered about during all the prior public consultations. Unsurprisingly, Vision approved it.]

City Council wants and needs your input!

Click here for the Council meeting agendas and documents once they are posted a few days in advance.

CityHallWatch Wish List:

  1. More detail provided to the public about line items of the budget.
  2. More accountability and maybe a reduction in the mayor’s slush fund (see “Mayor Robertson’s $1 million ‘discretionary’ budget“).]

[Side note: Until about November 15, the “Civic Engagement and Communications” department was known as “Corporate Communications.” No announcement was made about the change in name. Another side note – the department is currently hiring a new “Communications Coordinator II” at $40.48 – $47.82 an hour, apply by Dec 2.]

Motions coming to City Council regarding the budget (added here Nov 28)

  • Motion “Creating a ‘Baseline Review’ Task Force” (Clr Hardwick): … that Council appoint a three (3) member, independent Oversight Commission to undertake a baseline review of all city finances; and direct staff to report back to Council by December 18, 2018 with draft Terms of Reference

Related:

Motion on reviewing the mayor’s discretionary budget –
https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/vancouver-mayors-office-budget-may-face-review-if-council-motion-okd

Taxpayer fatigue in Metro Vancouver –
https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/citing-taxpayer-fatigue-metro-vancouver-board-re-examines-regional-budget

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.

While we’re at it…

Vancouver’s procurement policies are not transparent. A look at methods being used to circumvent accountability
(October 13, 2015).
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/vancouvers-procurement-circumvent-accountability/

Indefensible  secrecy in City’s bid decisions? Compare Vancouver vs Toronto. Case in point: $8.51 million bid (3-year contract, supply of traffic control services)
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/bid-secrecy-vancouver-vs-toronto-transparency/

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2019 City budget funds key priorities (Official Information Bulletin, 27-Nov-2018)

The City of Vancouver’s proposed $1,516 million operating budget and $371 million budget for new capital projects ensures that important services can be maintained and improved, while at the same time proposes priority new investments to help meet the future needs of a growing and changing city.

The total capital expenditure budget for 2019 is $568 million, including new and ongoing projects.

The full draft 2019 Budget and Five-Year Financial Plan is available now on the City’s web site, along with a nine-page summary, and will be presented in detail for City Council consideration at a special Council meeting on December 11.

The draft 2019 Budget includes a proposed property tax increase of 4.9 per cent, driven primarily by the following factors:

· 1.0 per cent to fund additional investments in infrastructure renewal approved in the 2019-2022 Capital Plan

· 1.7 per cent to cover increased costs related to the provincial government’s new Employer Health Tax

· 2.2 per cent to cover inflationary and wage costs of existing services, and new investments to maintain and improve services

Household impact

The proposed 4.9 per cent property tax increase would amount to an extra $108 per year for the median single family home (assessed at $1.8 million), $41 for the median strata unit (assessed at $0.7 million) and $193 for the median business property (assessed at $0.9 million).

The proposed combined utility fee increase of 8.7 per cent is driven primarily by increases in utility program expenditures such as increased Metro Vancouver charges (including site preparation for sewer secondary treatment) and the costs to renew critical City utility infrastructure as approved in the 2019-2022 Capital Plan.

Over the past 10 years, Vancouver has had one of the lowest average annual property tax increases among Metro Vancouver municipalities, and the 2018 combined utility and property taxes for a median single-family home in Vancouver are below the average of other Metro Vancouver municipalities.

Priority investments based on public feedback

Public engagement on the 2019 Budget was completed in two phases:

· Phase one involved a Civic Service Satisfaction Survey, conducted by telephone, to understand current levels of satisfaction with City services. This research helped guide the service planning and budgeting process for internal departments, and informed the priorities and investments in the proposed 2019 Budget. The survey results are posted on the City’s website.

· Phase two included a range of digital and in-person activities to test priorities for spending, perceptions of financial management, and approaches to managing service delivery including tax levels and options to reduce taxes. The full engagement report is included in the draft budget document.

Learn more at a public briefing on December 3

Vancouver residents are invited to a briefing on the proposed 2019 Budget on Monday, December 3 from 5:30 to 7 pm at City Hall, Main Floor, Town Hall Room 110, which will also be streamed live on the City’s Facebook page. Citizens can learn more about and discuss the proposed budget with City staff before it is presented to City Council for consideration at a special Council meeting December 11.

Council is then scheduled to vote on the 2019 Budget on December 18 at the regular Council meeting.

To register to speak at the special Council meeting on December 11, follow the directions on our website. Residents can also submit questions or comments to Mayor and Council via the City web site. Property owners can also find more about the City’s land assessment averaging process on the City website.

The City of Vancouver’s financial management has been acknowledged by credit rating agencies-both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s-with the highest rating of AAA/Aaa. The City’s budget reporting practices were also recently recognized with an award by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), and Vancouver received one of the top rankings among Canadian municipalities in the CD Howe institute’s 2018 municipal fiscal accountability report card.

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CityHallWatch note  for keeners. For the 2014 Vancouver budget, we did a fairly detailed analysis. You might scan this for ideas on questions and issues for 2019.
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/property-taxes-to-rise-in-2014-join-cityhallwatch-budget-analysisforum/

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LINKS FOR BUDGET-RELATED DOCUMENTS

CoV 2019 Budget and Five-Year Financial Plan
(for Council meeting 18-Dec-2018, warning 567 pages)
https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2019-budget-book.pdf

2019 Budget and Five-Year Financial Plan Highlights (9 pages)
https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2019-budget-highlights.pdf

2019-2023 Budget Outlook (15 pages)
https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/budget-outlook-2019-2023.pdf

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