Former Councillor Colleen Hardwick (2018-2022) has shared the following letter with CityHallWatch.
Vancouver City Council is set to hold a Special Council meeting on the 2023 Draft Operating Budget, starting 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, in the Council Chambers. Here is the link for the documents, online video, and how to write or speak to Council. Link: https://council.vancouver.ca/20230228/spec20230228ag.htm
The agenda for the meeting stated that at the meeting, Council will receive a presentation and hear from speakers on the draft budget, and that debate and budget decision were scheduled for March 7. [Update: In a surprise and unexplained move, Council approved the agenda late on Feb 28.] There has been a lot of media coverage on the proposed 9.7% property tax increase and the draft operating budget of $1,961,363,868.
In her letter, Hardwick alerts the new Council to some unfinished City business and calls for concrete action: a baseline review, core services review, line item review of operating and capital budgets, and limiting any property tax increase to no more than inflation (5.9% in Jan). See links for details.
February 27, 2023
Mayor & Council, City of Vancouver
Re: Budget 2023
As a former Council member who took a deep interest in keeping the city affordable for its residents, I am concerned about the new Council’s proposed 9.7 % property tax increase. It continues the inflationary spiral that began under Vision Vancouver, with consecutive Councils adding more costs, responsibilities and staff every year without questioning what is essential and what residents can afford.
When I joined Council in December 2018, I pushed for a Baseline Review back to 2008 to find out how the city had doubled the budget since then. Where did the money come from? Where did the money go? The review as intended never happened, but it was clear the City had significantly expanded its mandate, and vastly increased its headcount as a result. An actual baseline review would demonstrate that changes to the funding model for the Capital budget had a big impact on the operating budget.
The City changed its business and financial model, making longitudinal analysis difficult, if not impossible. New revenue streams were regularized and new definitions applied to eligible expenditures. Whether you call it scope creep or mission creep, the effect has been the same.
In December 2021, CFO, Patrice Impey produced a Report back on City funds allocated to downloaded services that have traditionally been delivered by senior governments that demonstrated that over $350M had been downloaded from the Province and Feds to the Operating and Capital budgets over the last capital budget period. I strongly urge that instead of taking more on, the new Council conduct a Core Services review and figure out where to trim.
A line item review of both the operating and capital budgets is in order. We need to understand where the headcount has been added. We cannot continue to add more and more costs to residents and expect that they’re going to be able to live here.
Residents – and I speak as one of them – are not simply new revenue streams. The public service is supposed to be serving us, not just trying to figure out how to extract more money from us.
Canada’s annual inflation rate fell to 5.9% in January of 2023. Property tax increases should be in line. Finally, Council, please do start that long-needed Core Services review.
Creating a ‘Baseline Review’ Task Force
Motion 11 (14-Nov-2018). Restoring Line-by-Line Budgets for the City of Vancouver (initial text)
Motion 14. (5-Dec-2018) Creating a ‘Baseline Review’ Task Force
Final text of Motion 14, Creating a ‘Baseline Review” (meeting minutes 12-Dec-2018)
EXCERPT OF STAFF REPORT (PDF – 97 pages – https://council.vancouver.ca/20230228/documents/spec1.pdf)
TO: Vancouver City Council
FROM: Director of Finance SUBJECT: 2023 Draft Operating Budget
A. THAT Council approve the following increases to the Vancouver Police Board (VPB) Operating Budget, as outlined in the 2023 Draft Operating Budget section of Appendix A of this report:
a) $8.0 million additional funding for enabling the requisitioning and hiring new police officers, implementing Council’s direction to hire 100 new police officers;
b) $7.8 million additional funding driven by estimated increases in fixed costs such as compensation and benefit expenses, fleet expenses and increases in recoverable overtime and other expenditures;
c) $7.3 million increase over the 2022 budget for permanent funding of 2021 VPD budget appeal, approved by the Province of BC, as well as new requirements from the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) recruit training; and
d) $5.1 million increase for third party costs related to non-emergency call taking services provided by E Comm 9-1-1;
AND THAT the above constitutes Council’s approval of the Vancouver Police Board 2023 Operating Budget of $398,242,456 in expenditures and transfers and $28,272,123 in revenues as outlined in the operating budget section of Appendix A of this report.
B. THAT Council approve the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation 2023 Draft Operating Budget of $154,841,143 in expenditures and transfers and $71,094,900 in fee and program revenues as outlined in the operating budget section of Appendix A of this report.
C. THAT Council approve the Vancouver Public Library Board 2023 Operating Budget of
$58,655,739 in expenditures and transfers and $4,310,300 in fee and program revenues
as outlined in the operating budget section of the operating budget section of Appendix A of this report.
D. THAT Council approve the 2023 Property Endowment Fund (PEF) Operating Budget of
$57,471,717 in revenues and $57,471,717 in expenses (including transfers) as outlined in Appendix A of this report.
E. THAT Council approve the 2023 VAHEF Operating Budget of $12,821,399 in revenues and $12,821,399 in expenses (including transfers) as outlined in Appendix A of this report.
F. THAT, subject to approval of recommendations A to E, or as amended, Council approve the 2023 Draft Operating Budget of $1,961,363,868 outlined in Appendix A, resulting in an overall property tax increase of 9.7%, and direct staff to bring forward for adoption by Council a resolution consistent with the above approval to authorize the 2023 General Purposes Tax Levy in accordance with the Vancouver Charter.
G. THAT Council direct Staff to develop strategies to address cost pressures in the multi- year financial plan through new revenue opportunities, process improvements to reduce costs or increase capacity, senior government funding and partnerships that will inform the multi-year property tax increases for Council’s consideration as part of future Budget processes.
Original meeting agenda, showing debate and decision was to be March 7, 2023. In fact, in a surprise move, Council adopted the agenda on Feb 28.
Below – by 7 pm on March 1, crucial information about the decision to be made March 7 had been changed.
Below, by the end March 1, the time line displayed on the vancouver.ca/budget page had been changed. See bottom right.
Ms. Hardwick, I voted for you and TEAM. I agree with all your points and I think this new council is on the wrong track and heading the wrong way at full speed.