Vancouver city council approved a $1.15 billion operating budget for 2013 today (December 11) that will see property taxes increase by two percent.
In a vote at Vancouver City Hall today, council approved an amended set of recommendations to approve both the capital and operating budgets for next year, including an additional $3 million in “emerging priorities” capital funding for park board additions, such as upgrades to sport field facilities and more public washrooms.
The discussion followed a public meeting on the 2013 capital and operating budgets last week, where just six people signed up to speak.
Mayor Gregor Robertson called that low turnout “a new record” compared to the long speaker lists for budgets in previous years, and praised the incorporation of departmental service metrics in this year’s report.
“We’re able to track the impact of these budget decisions on the people and the neighbourhoods of Vancouver—that’s a massive leap forward in terms of measuring what taxpayer dollars do for people in Vancouver,” he said in council chambers.
But Non-Partisan Association councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball and Green councillor Adriane Carr continued to raise concerns with the level of detail provided in the operating budget.
“I think we need to improve the consistency of detail and add more detail still so that we can actually see in greater line items what’s actually going on in every service area, including city council,” said Carr.
Affleck also criticized the change in property tax and utility rates, which city staff say combined will translate to about a 2.75 percent increase for residents.
Through a motion from Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, council also directed staff today to consider allocating up to $5 million from this year's operating surplus to the city’s childcare reserve to fund increased daycare spaces, and to index $300,000 in new arts, culture and social grants to the consumer price index as part of the 2013 budget.
Projects in next year's operating budget include a Vancouver Police Department pilot program to hire unarmed officers, increased funding for supportive housing, and an additional $700,000 for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.