Vancouver City Council's recently approved $1.148 billion 2013 operating and capital budget has received mixed reviews.
The budget uses a new reporting method that focuses on goals and objectives over the next several years rather than a detailed accounting of expenses.
But Non-Partisan Association councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball and Green Party councillor Adriane Carr are opposing adoption of the budget recommendations because they say it lacks detail and transparency.
Affleck said he asked for a detailed operating budget this year and last, to no avail.
"I don't know how much more clear I can make it," he said of his requests for a breakdown of budget line items.
Carr said her requests for clarification of budget specifics, in particular details as to how community amenity contributions are to be allocated, the answers she got were "too wishy-washy."
Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said public consultations prior to the budget being finalized showed it to be one of city's most strongly supported budgets.
"I think it's because the tax increases were very modest, but the budget lays out really clearly what kind of value taxpayers are getting for that expenditure, in terms of improved service and more efficiency," said Meggs. "They can see that needs are being met, core services are being protected, and we're even enhancing a few things, but we've kept the taxes to about 2%."
However, Kimball Kastelen, policy analyst for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in B.C., said that essential information remains buried in the document.
"What could be lost on the people of Vancouver is the fact that there continues to be a significant disparity in terms of the differential rate that is paid by residential ratepayers versus small businesses for an equivalent property," said Kastelen.
Kastelen said the CFIB has analyzed the property tax rates paid by residents compared with those paid by small businesses in Vancouver and has determined that, at the end of 2011, small businesses paid 4.32 times as much as residents for a comparable property compared with a provincial differential of 2.78 times.
For 2013, using the figures provided in the budget, the number for Vancouver businesses jumps to 4.6 times.
Highlights of the city's 2013 operating and capital budget include:
- $14.4 million for parks and open spaces, including improvements to playgrounds and Trillium field;
- $11.8 million allocated for improving bike and pedestrian safety on major routes;
- $9.6 million committed to affordable housing;
- $2 million for a new Vancouver Police Department community safety program, intended to prevent break-ins, decrease police response times and improve neighbourhood safety;
- an additional $700,000 for the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, including funding for additional firefighters and the Urban Search and Rescue Team; and
- a vote to direct city staff to consider an allocation of up to $5 million for child care and $300,000 to funding for the arts and social grants.
(Source: City of Vancouver)