Finance & Administration
Vancouver is now one of the most unaffordable cities in the world. While the reasons for this are many, over the last decade, the city has been a major contributor. During this period, City Hall has almost doubled its Operating Budget with new expenditures funded through property tax increases well beyond promised inflationary levels and through increases in service-related fees and charges and by the addition of new ones. These increases in property taxes, fees and charges have treated residents as a virtual ATM to fund expansion into areas that are often outside the City’s mandate. A review of priority initiatives currently being considered by Council has the potential to make this situation much worse in the future.
TEAM Perspective and Action Plan
TEAM will work to improve the impact that the city has on affordability by changing the way the City’s finances and administration are managed and how new services are prioritized. There are a range of services that the city is mandated to provide and that make Vancouver a desirable place to live and work. These are the core services like police and fire, public works and utility services, parks and recreation and library services that citizens depend on. In the recent past, these have often been neglected in favour of a range of new and supplementary services that are outside the city’s core mandate.
City Hall should approach the provision of these supplementary services very carefully and with deliberation. Over the last decade these services have grown significantly as the city has been drawn into areas for which it has a questionable mandate and inadequate or inappropriate funding sources to provide. As a result, the city is constantly forced to raise taxes and fees beyond the capacity of residents to absorb and to search for new revenues to provide the necessary funding.
TEAM’s approach to managing the City’s administrative and financial affairs will bring more accountability and transparency to city government.
- Fully activate the Office of the Auditor General to support Council’s oversight of the city’s administrative and financial efficiency and effectiveness;
- Review the city’s financial structure and policies to ensure they are consistent with best practices and are transparent for citizens;
- Conduct a thorough review of the Operating and Capital budgets to (a) document where service costs have increased over the last decade, and why, (b) determine which services are essential – that is, what the city must do for its residents – and develop benchmarks to measure service cost and value for money and (c) determine which services are supplementary - that is, what the city may do – to develop purpose statements for each service and ensure there is a direct benefit to the city and its citizens;
- Change the budget process to ensure Council - and the public - has the ability to review and set priorities within the operating and capital budgets by having departments develop and have approved annual service plans and performance benchmarks for review by Council;
- Establish a Lobbyist Registry, consistent with federal and provincial levels, to monitor influence from industry and labour alike, allowing citizens to know who is attempting to influence City decisions; and
- Continue the Long-Term Financial Sustainability & Municipal Finance Reform initiative, the joint UBCM-Provincial Government review of new options for funding municipal services and relieving the impacts on property taxes.
Related policies: All of them