VANCOUVER City Council has directed City staff to prepare options for a 2021 budget that would result in a property tax increase of no more than five per cent.
This is in the context of an unpredictable financial landscape where City revenues are currently projected to be $124 million short in 2020 due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The City has also seen increases in costs during the year, including support for the city’s most vulnerable citizens and personal protective equipment for City staff.
To offset this financial stress, the City says it has reduced services, implemented layoffs, wage reductions and spending constraints, and is using financial reserves to balance the budget, which is required by legislation.
“At this early stage, it is critical staff prepare for a range of budget scenarios to guarantee Council knows what our choices are as we continue to deal with the uncertainty posed by the dual health emergencies of COVID-19 and the ongoing opioid overdose crisis,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “The budget challenges we face are real, and as we head into the fall we must be prepared to balance the needs of programs for our growing city with the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 and the resources that would demand to keep vulnerable communities safe and support local economic recovery.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Council also renewed their call for financial support from senior levels of government to address significant funding shortfalls impacting municipalities across Canada.
Staff will be bringing budget options to Council in October, including opportunities to further reduce costs and create additional revenue in 2021, while protecting delivery of core public services such as water, sewer and safe streets.
A set of priorities to guide staff in the development of the annual budget and five-year financial plan, consistent with those approved in 2020, was also approved by Council. The primary priority is to deliver quality core services that meet residents’ needs. The additional four priorities are:
· Address affordability and the housing crisis
· Protect and build a resilient local economy
· Increase focus on equity and critical social issues
· Accelerate action on climate change
Over the late summer and early fall, the City will ask the public for input on their priorities for City spending in 2021 via online surveys and other engagement methods. The City is also asking residents for feedback on their challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the City’s response, through a series of regular surveys on the Talk Vancouver platform.
The City’s Restart Smart Vancouver plan for recovery, restart and rebuilding aligns with the phased approach as outlined in the provincial government’s plan and considers public health direction. The public can refer to the City’s social media channels and website for a more detailed list and status of City facilities and services.