Topics at Vancouver City Hall Tuesday evening as council heard details on the proposed 2014 budget included cultural funding and litter on local streets.
After city staff from various departments made presentations to council, just a handful of speakers waded in on the $1.2-billion operating budget, including local union and library representatives.
Vancouver resident Jeanette Jones told council that the street cleaning budget has been reduced, from $8.9 million in 2010 to $7.3 million proposed for next year.
“Hello! Has anyone looked at our streets lately?” said Jones. “Anywhere in the city you will note an increasing amount of garbage on the street...Is this the way we treat the world’s most livable city?”
Director of waste management Albert Shamess told council that the city has recognized litter control as a challenging issue, and is planning on increasing the number of garbage and recycling bins near bus stops.
During questions to staff, Non-Partisan Association councillor Elizabeth Ball noted that in 2009, Vancouver gave out $8.3 million in grants to cultural organizations, serving 187 groups, compared to $8 million for 2013.
“Now we’re not up to $8.3 [million] again, but we’re serving 225 organizations,” she said. “So we’re basically giving less money to more organizations.”
According to budget documents, theatre rental grants have increased from $2.3 million in 2009 to $2.6 million in 2013.
City staff are proposing a 1.9-percent property tax increase to balance next year’s operating budget. A utility-rate increase of 2.7 percent is also expected, in addition to a 1-percent user-fee increase.
Spending outlined in the budget includes $262.2 million for utilities, $234.9 million for police, $108.2 million for parks and recreation, $98.4 million for fire and rescue services, $75.2 million for engineering public works, $112 million for corporate services, $44 million for libraries, and $18.9 million for planning and development.
According to an online survey conducted by the city, Vancouver residents identified infrastructure and transportation as the most important local issues, followed by housing and accommodation, social issues and services, cost of living, and development.
Vancouver businesses identified infrastructure and transportation as the top priorities, followed by cost of living, housing and accommodation, and development.
City council will vote on the budget at its next meeting on December 17.