VANCOUVER City Council has approved the City’s $1,513 million operating budget for 2019 and a $365.8 million capital budget for new projects in 2019.
Included was approval of $27.8 million of new investments in the 2019 operating budget in five priority areas:
- Increase housing supply and affordability, and improve availability and supports for renters and vulnerable citizens
- Maintain and improve operations and service levels
- Invest in public safety
- Continue to build vibrant communities and public spaces that support arts, culture and the environment
- Meet commitments to provide safe and healthy workplaces and public spaces
“I am very pleased that this new Council was able to come together to approve a budget for 2019, which gives staff the mandate to proceed with action on so many important priorities in our city,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
“With limited sources of revenue, it’s a real challenge for the City to find ways to address all of the issues that are important to our residents. Over the past several weeks we’ve listened to feedback and made adjustments in this approved budget which reflect what we heard. Now we can all look ahead to 2019 and getting to work building affordable housing, reducing homelessness, tackling the opioid crisis and supporting small businesses,” Stewart added.
As part of the discussion and debate on the budget, individual councillors proposed a number of amendments to reflect the priorities of Council – nine members of which were newly elected on October 20. Key amendments to the draft budget that were approved included:
- Allocation of $20 million of Empty Homes Tax revenue, when received, to address housing supply and affordability for renters and vulnerable citizens
- Allocation of funding from the Empty Homes Tax revenue to help reduce the cost of permitting, licensing and planning for residents wanting to create secondary or basement suites
- Deferral of approval of funding of $5.38 million for improvements to the Robson Square public plaza, to be reallocated to affordable housing
- A commitment to fully fund the additional resources for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services over five years, as identified by the Dark Horse report
- Allocation of up to $5 million from the capital plan to pursue building retrofits for carbon emission reductions; staff were also directed to pursue additional funding from other levels of government to support this work
- An increase in the number of public recycling stations by 50 per cent through reallocation of funds within the Solid Waste Utility
- Council requested staff to engage the Property Tax Policy Review Commission to explore a two per cent property tax shift from commercial to non-commercial taxpayers, with the goal of supporting small business and retail
- Doubled the increase in funding for arts and culture grants (from one per cent to two per cent)
Council also approved a property tax increase of 4.5 per cent, a reduction from the 4.9 per cent proposed tax rate in the draft budget, through reductions in the Innovation Fund and the Council Contingency.
The approved increase is comprised of:
- 1 per cent to fund additional investments in infrastructure renewal approved in the 2019-2022 Capital Plan
- 1.7 per cent to cover increased costs related to the provincial government’s new Employer Health Tax
- 1.8 per cent to cover inflationary and wage costs of existing services, and new investments to maintain and improve services (reduced from 2.2 per cent)
A revised Park Board budget of $129 million in expenditures, including an additional $610,000 requested by the board to increase horticulture service standards was also approved.
The $317 million Vancouver Police Board and $54 million Vancouver Public Library budgets were also approved.