ITAC Submissions

 

2371 Marine Drive

West Vancouver, BC  V7V 1K9

February 15, 2012.

Dear Mayor and Council:

Since 2008 operating budget increases have gone up by an average of 4.8% annually and are slated to go up by 6.9% for 2012 (6% if we eliminate Third Party Works).  The major driver is S&Bs, up 18.6% over the last four years, an average of 4.7% annually.  In fact, compensation paid to our most senior staff, those earning over $100,000, increased even more than that—34.8% between 2005 and 2010 (the latest FIA report).  That’s at an annual average rate of 7%.  This is as unacceptable as it is unsustainable.

S&Bs continue to take up a rising proportion of the expenses of the Ten Divisions.  It used to be in the upper 70s percent range four/five years ago; for 2012 it’s 81.9%.  At this rate it will reach 90% by 2020. (It is already 93% for the Fire Department and at 85% for Police.)   This causes two problems:

·      It squeezes funds available for non-labour expenses.  The previous mayor mentioned on several occasions the squeeze on filling potholes and painting the white and yellow lines on our roads (an obvious safety issue).  Residents have asked for better maintenance of Horseshoe Bay village.  One might add the deplorable shape of two of this municipality’s major thoroughfares, the unsightly patchwork pavement on 21st Street and the terrible roadbed on Marine Drive between Fisherman’s Cove and Eagleridge.  Plainly, the squeeze is already affecting essential services.  The decision taken by Council last week to reduce non-labour expenses further will only add more pressure.

·      It adds to unfunded pension liabilities.  This is a serious issue.  Provinces and municipalities across Canada and many US jurisdictions have huge pension shortfalls.  Federal employee pension funds have a $227 billion shortfall.  In BC shortfalls are charged back to municipalities.  Our budgets should clearly disclose the annual shortfall expenses the municipality is charged by the province.

We have one of the highest ratios in BC of municipal employees per capita and one of the highest proportions of employees earning over $75,000.  At a Council meeting two years ago when ITAC suggested Council review all staff vacancies with a view to effect efficiencies, the CAO stated there was no need for Council to do so; instead he would.  Well, the 2010 budget had 615 FTEs (excluding Transit), but the 2012 budget still has 615 FTEs.  Why did nothing happen in spite of a raft of retirements during this period that have no severance costs?  And going forward, we are now looking at, maybe, two or three FTE reductions but with huge severance costs?  Council should demand better management of our human resources and more efficiency—a lot more of both.  Departures and retirements should be seen as costless opportunities and excessive overhead should be trimmed back.  I note the province of BC has had a “net zero” policy for several years where compensation increases must be offset by efficiencies.    

Sincerely yours, 

Garrett H. Polman 

 

November 22, 2010

Madam Mayor & Council:

 Re: District’s 2011 proposed operating budget.

 I make this submission as a District resident tax-payer as well as on behalf of my colleagues in the Interested Tax-payers’ Action Committee [“ITAC”], each of whom is also a District resident tax-payer.

 I’d like to begin with two acknowledgments. Firstly, for a variety of well-known reasons we are all extremely fortunate to live in West Vancouver, not the least of which being the fact that the budget challenges facing our local government, while significant, pale in comparison to those facing many communities across Canada and elsewhere in advanced societies throughout the Western world. Secondly, our District’s Council ought to be complimented for having demonstrated real leadership respecting budget matters insofar as it has kept local property taxes to virtually no increase over these past two years.

 Context is always important when budgets are being considered. My ITAC colleagues and I were encouraged to hear our District’s newly-appointed director of finance refer to this fact at the last finance committee meeting. As she said, “We can’t develop our budgets in isolation from what is going on in the rest of the world…We must be aware of the impact of regional infrastructure demands for tax dollars.”

 We know, for instance, that according to StatsCan census data the median income of West Vancouver residents fell by 14.7% in the five years leading to 2005, with that of our “senior families” (ie. those over age 65), who as at that year made up fully 23% of our population, falling by an astonishing 30.9% to only $25,023. We know that since 2005, and especially since 2008, North America has experienced a serious assault on personal income and wealth, a situation that continues to pose a clear and present threat.

 Beginning last July 1st, the province imposed the 12% HST on goods and services, hitting consumers hard. Metro Vancouver operating budgets continue to rise, with attendant tax or utility fee increases. To finance expanded services, mostly in places other than the North Shore, TransLink is proposing an additional property tax levy across the Greater Vancouver area, to be set for residential properties at $8.91 per $100,000 of assessed value. West Vancouver property owners will once again feel the impact more than most.

 Here in West Vancouver population has remained essentially static in recent times,

growing by a mere 1.3% between 2004 and 2009. Meanwhile, according to annual reports, over those five years the District’s operating budget grew by 46.5%, from $46,609,982 to $68, 272,261, an average of 9.3% per year.

 We have been informed repeatedly that at least 80% of the District’s annual operating costs are attributable to employee salaries and benefits packages. Shockingly, District documents reveal that, over the five years 2004 to 2009, fifteen senior managers received, on average, a 38.5% increase in their remuneration. That’s an average of 7.7% per year. In one case, the five year total was 71.2%, while in another it was 63.7%. These increases are as unacceptable as they are unsustainable.

 Earlier this year, the District informed residents that we will be facing substantial increases in utility fees in order to cover costs associated with infrastructure replacement, specifically sewer and water mains and pipes. Last year, our utility fees went up by 4.4%. This year, according to articles in recent editions of the NS News, it appears that sewer, solid waste and water rates will increase, on average, by roughly 8%, for a total of some $103 on the average assessed residential property (ie. in West Vancouver currently, I believe, an improbable $1.1 million).

 ITAC agrees with the statement recently attributed to our mayor to the effect that increasing utility fees to cover necessary infrastructure replacement is the “long term responsible thing to do”. However, the tax-paying residents, and businesses, of West Vancouver require some offsetting financial relief. A budgetary girdle must be placed on what appears to be profligate spending increases year over year on District operating costs, specifically employee remuneration.

 What to do? First, ITAC recommends that the 2.35% property tax increase presently slated for imposition in 2011 be eliminated. At a saving of $537,000 per tax point, this will amount to a reduction of $1,261,950, or a mere 2% of the District’s proposed operating budget of $64,732,186. The 2011 operating budget will still increase by 2.45%,or $1,520,632 over this year. With no local population growth and virtually no, if any, inflation such an increase should be more than ample.

 Second, ITAC recommends that an amount equivalent to the cost associated with District infrastructure replacement in 2011 (ie. estimates for sewer and water systems are apparently $2.24 million) be removed from the proposed operating budget and set aside for future infrastructure replacement. Given the disproportionate amount of operating funds currently going to employee remuneration, this will require the District to begin reducing its payroll which, according to the District’s web-site, now stands at 875, or one employee per 51 residents. This can be done by attrition and, where warranted, by adopting alternative service delivery methods. Any decision respecting the latter will necessitate Council being provided with appropriate activity-based cost information so as to be able to make accurate comparisons.

 In less than one year, local elections will be held and a new Council chosen. District residents will benefit greatly from a campaign leading to these elections during which issues of fiscal and operational management are openly and vigorously debated. In the meantime, this Council can set the tone by continuing to demonstrate leadership and bringing in a District operating budget for 2011 that is both responsible and respectful of the people who are being asked to provide the tax-dollars.

 On behalf of ITAC,

 yours sincerely,

 David O. Marley

March 23, 2009

Interested Taxpayer’s Action Committee (“ITAC”)
Submission to Council concerning District of West Vancouver’s
2009 Proposed Budget
Madam Mayor, Councilors, taxpayers of West Vancouver and staff, the unscheduled demands of business in this economic environment have forced me to not be able to attend in person…my apologies. My associate and colleague, Garrett Polman, has kindly volunteered to present in my place.

ITAC has submitted its views with respect to budgetary matters over the last three years. Tonight, this submission will be ITAC’s fifth such submission to Council..

The Municipal Clerk has been provided with copies of this submission as well as all previous ITAC submissions for your reference.

When ITAC was founded, one of its primary objectives was to provide support to Council with experienced views on matters of significant interest to all…just how do we in West Vancouver spend the taxpayers money?

Another ITAC objective was to increase the public awareness of how the taxpayers’ money is being spent…how it is budgeted, where it is directed and so on. That awareness has grown as anyone can see by going to our blog site…thepluckedgoose.wordpress.com. This blog is a clearing house, if you will, of information related to West Vancouver taxes, decision making processes, other municipalities and how they are managing and so on.

ITAC will continue to provide you, our Council, with our view of the muncipality’s fiscal management.

We will support Council in its complex role in achieving better practices, policies and processes which affect all of us living and paying taxes in West Vancouver.

The world is experiencing the worst economic crisis in the last 80 years. Global economic output has significantly fallen over a very short period of time.

Headlines from newspapers, economists, brokerage houses and banks tell us our economy continues to contract, that unemployment may hit 10% and that it may be 3-5 years before we’re back to normal. This deafening message is very very clear…we are, collectively, in a heap of economic trouble, both immediate and for the medium term. In this environment we must prudently and carefully manage our scarce resources.
How does the 2009 Proposed Budget stack up?

In his opening remarks, the Chief Administrative Officer has stated “the proposed 2009 budget…reflects the austere economic times … our community is experiencing”.

He also states “the economy has changed and we are taking action to rein in spending”.

So far so good…sets the right tone…Let’s look at this “reined in” budget proposal:

Our staff has proposed to:

• Grow revenues (taxes by any name) by 3.23%.

• Increase operating expenditures by over 5%, one of the highest level of increase in the last 4 years and

• to meet this increase, staff proposes to:
o Increase home owners property taxes by almost 3%, and
o Increase user fees (another name for taxes) by over 2%

This proposed 2009 budget, notwithstanding soothing words in the CAO’s opening message, is clearly business as usual. This Budget seems to have been based upon assumptions which bear little or no resemblance to revenue, the ability to pay and the current economic melt down in the world.

Throughout my professional finance career, I learned each and every transaction gone bad had a consistent thread…the lack of thorough and rigourous revenue testing…test the revenue assumptions again and again and your decisions, collectively, will be better.

As presented in the Proposed 2009 budget, it would seem no revenue testing was done. After reading the results of a nine month process “condensed” into only 140 pages all that came out was staff saying testing was not realistic…

What…not realistic? What kind of management doesn’t rigourously test revenue assumptions? Does staff not realize and understand that sources of cash (salaries, bonuses, stock portfolios, houses) available to West Vancouver’s taxpayers has shrunk significantly and will likely shrink some more?

There are times when income and its availability decreases; those times are, without question, right now.

Take a walk on Marine Drive in Ambleside and Dundarave…count the number of out of business shops and stores. While you are doing that, reflect upon the knowledge that right now, many private schools, including those right here in West Vancouver, are experiencing increasingly large receivables…consequently, they lack cash. Why is that? Parents on the monthly payment plans are in arrears in increasingly larger numbers. Private clubs, including Hollyburn, have embarked on massive mail drop campaigns with flashy brochures begging for new members…why is that?

Simply stated ladies and gentlemen…cash is severely scarce. How does municipal hall manage in this environment?

Do we increase operating expenditures and expect the taxpayer to roll over and pony up more money as proposed?

I say a resounding and loud NO.

How are we managing according to the 2009 Proposed Budget?

In the interests of brevity, I will quote only one paragraph which appears on page 32.

” Notwithstanding that the short-term impact of the recession on District finances may be relatively minor and within our ability to manage, it is understood that may residents will have been severely impacted through declining property and investment portfolio values, and some may have been impacted by layoffs and job losses. Under these circumstances, restraint in District spending and minimizing of proposed tax rate increases is warranted”

I find this proposed budget to be extraordinarily frustrating. Council has been given tools and proposals to streamline decision making processes, to reduce in our inflated bureaucracy and municipal assets, to call attention to apparent abuses of taxpayer money. ITAC’s efforts raising public awareness of fiscal prudence have been successful. People have been listening!.

The paragraph quoted above is evidence our staff cares not to listen, neither to the elected Council nor to us, the frustrated taxpayers of West Vancouver.

Council needs to say enough is enough and that needs to be done now.

I TAC recommends the following:

• send back this proposed budget to staff with definitive and unambiguous instruction to redo its 140 page budget to contain, and present a budget with a zero increase in property taxes and a zero increase in user fees. Nothing else is acceptable;

• immediately adopt a zero based budgeting approach to future budgets starting with the 2010 budget cycle. This process forces each department to justify its reason for being and is a process that ITAC has consistently recommended. Nothing else is acceptable; and

• demand a budget cycle which is at least 5 months shorter than that dragged out in the 2009 Proposed Budget document. Staff ought to be spending their time doing what they are good at…managing our parks, streets, and so on rather than spending time in budget meeting after budget meeting. Nothing else is acceptable.

We have a “Finance Committee” …where is it? A fully functioning experienced Finance Committee with the proper mandate ought to be able to assist the Council in addressing these important basic economic and budgetary matters in a timely manner. It is obvious this committee isn’t working very well or maybe hasn’t even met yet.

ITAC will be commenting upon this and other areas of significant interest in the days and weeks to come. Don’t forget to check our blog at thepluckedgoose.wordpress.com.

In summary:

We are in the midst of an economic crisis unprecedented since the Depression of the Thirties. National and provincial governments and corporations and individual families are everywhere looking hard for and finding ways to reduce expenses to offset, at least partially, the decline in revenues. The BC government is shaving back, sharply reducing senior executives; and our school boards and even BC Hydro have been ordered to pare their administrative expenses by 3%. Municipal governments, however, do what they always do–increase expenses and jack up taxes.

How can West Vancouver’s senior staff tell us our budget is already cut to the bone and a 5% reduction is not realistic?

Please spare me and all other taxpayers and voters in West Vancouver. The recent election saw 60% of the voters supporting candidates whose primary political platform was to be fiscally prudent. Council needs to listen to those voters and force staff to be fiscally responsible and prudent. Not next year…now for this year and beyond.

When you drive a Lamborghini or Ferrari or even a Mazda SUV and you claim you cannot find savings, that is just objectively not true. Of course you can downsize to a less expensive car. As we all know, even adjusted for the blue buses, the West Vancouver budget has been the highest on a per capita basis in Metro Vancouver for years. Our costs for core services are 35 to 50% higher than our neighbours on the North Shore. Anyone with experience in budgeting will tell you that if you’re off the charts in terms of basic benchmarks, you can always find savings.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully submitted

________________________________________________________________________________

West Vancouver, BC Interested Taxpayers’ Action Committee
PO Box 33021, 1583 Marine Drive
West Vancouver, BC
V7V 1H0
April 7, 2008
Mayor & Council, District of West Vancouver,
750, 17th Street,

Madam Mayor and Council:Re: District’s proposed operating budget for 2008 & the budget process generally.This submission to the District of West Vancouver [“DWV”] council by the Interested Taxpayers’ Action Committee [“ITAC”] is the third in as many District budget cycles.
District staff propose an operating budget for 2008 that involves a 6.9% aggregate increase in spending by the eight line departments, with the spending by each of three departments set to increase this year by 9.4% [administration], 9.6% [police services] and 10.0% [engineering], respectively. Such spending increases will evidently necessitate a tax rate hike of 3.5%, together with increases in “charges and fees” of 9.7% and “licences and permits” of 13.4%, respectively.
This proposed increase in spending, with the concomitant rise both in the property tax rate and in so-called “other revenue” [taxes by another name] is simply unacceptable.
The accompanying graph depicts total expenditures per resident for five administrative performance measures [“APMs”] in each of the 21 Metro Vancouver [ie. GVRD] municipalities for the year 2006 [ie. the most recent year for which figures are available]. The accompanying table provides the figures in support of the graph. This information has been obtained by ITAC indirectly from provincial government sources [ie. BC Ministry of Community Services and Stats BC].
The graph, supported by the table, reveals that DWV operating expenditures for the five APMs, in total, were 90 % more than the average for the remaining Metro Vancouver municipalities and 33 % more than those of the next biggest spender, the City of Vancouver, an urban centre that shoulders a much greater burden respecting a variety of local governmental tasks than does an essentially bedroom community such as our District. When costs attributable to the District’s “Blue Buses” are factored out [ie $9.7million, or $225. per resident, in 2006], DWV spending is still 67% above the average for the remaining Metro Vancouver municipalities and 17% above that of Vancouver.
In recreation and culture, DWV spending for 2006 was 153 % over the average for the remaining Metro Vancouver municipalities, in protective services [ie. fire and police] it was 80 % more, and in engineering, again with the Blue Bus costs factored out, it was some 43 % over the average for our 20 neighbours. Clearly, we need to focus on discovering and implementing ways and means to effect efficiencies in the delivery of local government services to the people of West Vancouver.
As Vancouver Sun columnist, Don Cayo, states, in the April 5th edition of that newspaper, DWV spending is “out of control” and there should be “some serious chats between those who spend municipal tax money and those who pay it”. We agree. [Cayo column attached for reference]
In West Vancouver, ITAC has been attempting to engage in that conversation for the past two years. If InterNet traffic to our blog-site, http://www.thepluckedgoose.wordpress.com, is any indication [ie. more than 3,750 visits in its first 18 day’s of operation], it appears that a growing number of DWV residents are in support of our efforts in this regard.
In a submission to council, dated April 10, 2006, ITAC states, “We consider ourselves fortunate to live in West Vancouver and we appreciate the existing calibre of municipal services. Nevertheless, we believe that the same or superior service levels can be delivered for fewer tax dollars.” In a May 1, 2006 letter to council, ITAC states, “The immediate need is for a timely and thorough analysis of the operational efficiency, or lack thereof, of our municipal government…The focus should be on ways and means to effect cost-savings in the delivery of services.” Today, we repeat those statements.
Let’s be clear, we are not suggesting a reduction in municipal service levels. Rather, we are seeking a reduction in the cost associated with the delivery of such services. We believe that if the District were to deliver its services to residents according to an optimal cost per service model, enhanced services could be made available to the people of West Vancouver and visitors for the same or, perhaps, even fewer tax dollars than are being spent at present.
What are some steps that might be taken to reduce costs? Given that approximately 80% of the DWV’s operating expenditures are for employee remuneration and benefits, and
that, in recent years, the top 15% of DWV income-earners have taken home fully 25% of the total remuneration paid to employees, why not begin by trimming the number of supervisory and management personnel?
Why not enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with our two North Shore neighbouring municipalities concerning the provision of various services, such as fire, police, planning, or parks and recreation? We are informed that some steps have already been taken in this regard concerning by-law services. Why not look more closely at the relative benefits of contracting-out? This seems to work well in the case of garbage collection and, at the provincial level, road maintenance.
We recommend that a more rigorous approach be taken to the awarding and management of contracts to outside suppliers, such as those who provide legal services. In recent years, it appears the cost associated with the provision of such services has escalated rapidly.
II – Budget Process Generally:
Of greater concern than the District’s spending and taxation figures for any given year, the processes by which the District’s budget is developed and decided upon, as well as the transparency of its financial management, ought to be the focus of some urgent remedial action.
In ITAC’s submission, of April 30, 2007, we recommended:
1. the District make public, by posting on its web-site, quarterly financial statements, within 45 days after the end of any given fiscal quarter. This is something that is required of publicly-traded corporations, so as to protect the interests of share-holders. Resident taxpayers of the DWV deserve no less.
2. monthly “budget variance reports”, except for the months of July and August, be delivered publicly to council by the heads of all eight line departments. Any variance in excess of two percent ought to be fully explained at such time, together with a plan and time-line for remedial action, if warranted.
3. the District’s annual “schedule of remuneration”, respecting employees who receive remuneration in excess of $75,000. and outside suppliers of goods and services who are paid in excess of $25,000., be made public well in advance of the date set for council’s vote on the next year’s operating budget and, in any event, by no later than March 15th of each year. This document contains important information that ought to be made available by such a date as offers ample opportunity for its consideration by council and interested members of the public.
We today re-iterate those recommendations.
As for the District’s proposed operating budget for 2008, council and the public were
informed by the District’s director of finance, during the March 10th last council meeting, that certain newly-appointed members of the finance committee evidently feel they cannot “get up to speed quickly enough” in order to offer a worthwhile analysis of this budget. We find this to be simply preposterous.
Not only was the time taken to approve the terms of reference for the finance committee, as well as to appoint its members, unduly long, it beggars belief that certain of the people finally appointed are unable or unwilling to immediately engage with the task at hand.
Tax by-laws do not have to be filed with the province until May 15th. It is, therefore, fully five weeks until Monday, May 12th, when council can cast its final budget vote. This is ample time for a properly directed, motivated and skilled finance committee to conduct a thorough analysis of the District’s operating budget proposed for 2008 and to make recommendations to council concerning cost savings, service delivery protection and ways in which to reduce both the anticipated tax rate and the ancilliary charges, fees, licences and permits.
At council’s “budget workshop”, held last February 11th, ITAC offered council’s finance committee the volunteer services of two exceptionally qualified individuals who have both the time and the willingness to help get this job done. If certain finance committee appointees now feel they are somehow inadequate to the task, they ought to step aside and make room for others in order that the mandate of the committee can be fulfilled and the public interest served.
On behalf of ITAC,
yours respectfully,
David O. Marley
cc. ITAC members, NS News, NS Outlook, Vancouver Sun.
I – Budget proposed for 2008:

_________________________________________________________________________________________________
2007 Budget Submission
April 30, 2007
Mayor and Council
District of West Vancouver
Delivered by Hand [and by e-mail]
750 17th Street
West Vancouver, BC
Dear Madam Mayor and Council:
Re: Proposed DWV budget for 2007
Some not insignificant progress has been made respecting DWV financial administration since ITAC presented its first submission to council on April 12, 2006. The Fiscal Sustainability Task Force was constituted last May and has produced a very valuable report, made public last November. While the focus of the task force was on revenue generation rather than on cost savings, as ITAC would have preferred, it nevertheless has made a very helpful contribution to the understanding of the District’s emerging fiscal situation. Council has appointed a revitalized Finance and Audit Committee, charged with the examination of the District’s budget process and its operating expenditures. This, too, is a most welcome development.
However, ITAC has some serious concerns respecting the financial operation of our municipality. Specifically, as far as the budget process is concerned, we believe:
• the District’s proposed budget ought to be made public no later than January 15th of the year under consideration;
• the District’s “schedule of remuneration” ought to be made public by no later than March 15th of the following year;
• the District, like publicly-traded corporations, ought to make quarterly financial statements available to the public [ie. by posting them on its web-site]; and
• Council ought to receive, in public, monthly reports [except during July and August] detailing the District’s financial performance to date. Any variance from the budget in excess of five percent ought to be explained, publicly, by the departmental manager concerned.
When it comes to financial performance and operating expenditures, ITAC is concerned that the District’s capital reserves are apparently depleted. How has this come to pass and what steps are being contemplated to address the situation?
We believe Council has missed a golden opportunity to show leadership, and protect the taxpayers, by failing to instruct District staff to produce an operating budget for 2007 that involves a zero percent property tax increase. According to the District’s director of finance, this would have required a reduction in the proposed operating budget of $1,416,000, or a mere 2.6% from the budget of each of the District’s eight functional divisions.
The District’s budget documents and, more particularly, its “schedule of remuneration” for the year 2006, reveal ample room for improvement. ITAC notes, for instance, that over the past four years, eleven senior District managers have each received annually, on average, a 7.4% increase in remuneration. These are individuals who, in the first place, were receiving substantial remuneration. We note, also, that District budget documents reveal that fully 79.7% of the DWV operating budget is consumed by staff remuneration and, further, that, in 2006 at least, 15% of the District’s employees took home 25% of the total remuneration paid out. It is clear, therefore, where one ought to begin the search for cost-savings.
ITAC compliments the DWV council on its determination to focus more attention upon fiscal matters. We say, however, that a much more rigorous approach ought to be undertaken with respect to identifying and eliminating unnecessary operating expenditures, beginning with what appears to be an excess of managerial and supervisory personnel in the District’s employ. We are optimistic that the District’s proposed operating budget for 2008 will reflect an approach that is more respectful of taxpayers. Should that not prove to be the case, the financial administration of the District will no doubt feature prominently in the campaign for election in November, 2008.
On behalf of ITAC, yours respectfully,
Scott B. Hean
_____________________________________________________________________________________
2006 Budget Submissions:
1)
Interested Tax Payers Action Committee
April 10th, 2006
Mayor and Council,
District of West Vancouver,
750 17th Street,
West Vancouver, BC
Madam Mayor and Council:
Re: District Budgets and Operational Efficiency
We, the undersigned six resident property-owners, being concerned about the increasing and disproportionate [relative to the GVRD average] operating costs of the District of West Vancouver (“DWV”) have recently formed the Interested Taxpayers’ Action Committee (“ITAC”). Our members include a corporate CFO, a corporate vice-president, two management consultants, a realtor and a public policy analyst. We have access to other volunteer expertise, including a specialist in employee compensation and benefit plans.We submit that the 2006 District budget as proposed by municipal staff ought not to be accepted, for reasons that follow. Further, we recommend that Council appoint a “Budget and Operational Efficiency Committee”, whose mandate would be to find ways and means to effect cost savings respecting District operations.
According to BC Stats, between the years 2000 and 2005, the DWV population has grown by an estimated 1,122 people or, on average, 224 per year. In other words, the District’s population has been essentially static for the past five years and, as of 2005, stood at an estimated 44,149 people.
According to StatsCan, since the year 2000, the CPI for the Greater Vancouver area has increased by an average 2.4% per year. In each of the past two years, it was 2.14% and 1.53%, respectively.
Yet, according to figures obtained from the 2004 DWV annual report, since the year 2000, the DWV has experienced:
• an aggregate wage, salary and benefit cost increase of 21.6%, for an average annual increase of 5.4%; and
• a total residential property class tax increase of 16.2%, for an average annual increase of 4.1%.
Further, according to figures compiled from the BC Ministry of Community Services web-site, between the years 2002 and 2005, the DWV has seen:
• municipal operating costs per capita above the GVRD average of 72% (2002), 74%(2003), and 78%(2004), respectively [figures for the year 2005 are not as yet available];
• a tax burden on the average residential property above the GVRD average of 67%(2003), 71%(2004) and 74%(2005), respectively; and
• a tax burden on the average residential property of 48%(2004) and 49%(2005) above the next highest GVRD municipality.
Finally, and again according to the BC Ministry of Community Services web-site, for the year 2005, the DWV had:
• a taxation rate per capita of 58.6% above the GVRD average, 16.4% above that of the next highest municipality, being the City of Vancouver, and 48% above the combined average rate for the City and District of North Vancouver.
While not completely within the District’s control, although affecting resident property-owners all the same, DWV utility rates have gone up for 2006, in the case of water, by a remarkable 7% and, in the case of sewer & drainage, by an astonishing13.5%.
Also, while not within the District’s control, DWV property-owners carry a disproportionately high tax burden with respect to the financing of the GVTA (“TransLink”). For instance, in the year 2005, DWV property tax per capita respecting TransLink was $175.49, some 79.2% above the GVRD average. This amount is a staggering 95.6% above what it was only two years previous.
In addition, it is our understanding that the salaries and benefit costs of Blue Bus employees are paid for in their entirety by DWV property tax-payers, a situation that we believe pertains in no other GVRD municipality.
This situation is overly burdensome, especially as property tax is paid from income that, in most instances, has itself already been heavily taxed. And, we suspect, for increasing numbers of DWV property-owners, many of long-standing residence in our community, it is also becoming financially unsustainable. Again, we urge Council not to approve the District budget for 2006 as proposed. Rather, we ask that staff be instructed to sharpen their pencils and return to Council with a budget proposal that involves, ideally, no tax increase for this year or, at the very least, one that is no greater than the prevailing inflation rate for the Vancouver area (i.e. 1.5%). Further, we repeat our recommendation that Council appoint a “Budget and Operational Efficiency Committee”, to be comprised of certain municipal staff and members of ITAC, whose mandate would be to determine ways and means to effect cost-savings respecting District operations.
In making this recommendation, our objective is to trigger a process that will lead to future DWV budgets that involve either no tax increases or, if at all possible, tax reductions, while at the same time preserving or enhancing the delivery levels of various District services.
We consider ourselves fortunate to live in West Vancouver and appreciate the existing calibre of available municipal services. Nevertheless, we believe the same or better service levels can be delivered for fewer tax dollars.
We are prepared to volunteer our time and talents, such as they may be, in an effort to help achieve this result. In passing, we note that the District’s existing “Financial Advisory Committee” has cancelled six of its last nine scheduled meetings. We would intend to take a much more activist approach.
In conclusion, we wish to emphasize that in no way do we envision the work of the proposed “Budget and Operational Efficiency Committee” to be an exercise in finger-pointing. We intend that its members be guided in their enquiries and deliberations by the Japanese adage, “Fix the problem, not the blame”.
Yours respectfully,
ITAC

2)
Interested Tax Payers Action Committee
May 10th, 2006
Mayor and Council,
District of West Vancouver,
750 17th Street,
West Vancouver, BC
Madam Mayor and Council:
Re: Proposed Budget and Financial Sustainability Review
Further to our letter, of April 10th last, we make the following two submissions.Firstly, with respect to the proposed District of West Vancouver operating budget for 2006, we repeat our earlier recommendation that staff be instructed to return to Council prior to May 8th next with a budget that neither raises property taxes nor reduces present delivery levels of municipal services.We have been informed that, according to District staff, it will take a cut in the operating budget of $407,000 in order to reduce by 1% the initially proposed 4.2% increase in property taxes. In other words, a cut of $1,709,400 is required to eliminate any increase in property taxes for this year. That is equal to 3.3% of the proposed $51,719,279 budget. Current managers ought to have little difficulty in accomplishing this task without compromising service delivery levels. The crucial ingredient is for Council to demonstrate the necessary political will to instruct staff to accomplish this budget reduction.
Secondly, with respect to the Financial Sustainability Review, evidently proposed by staff at the conclusion of the April 24th Council meeting, we submit that the task force it suggests is unnecessarily cumbersome with the three phase process it envisions far too convoluted. Likely, this task force would become too time-consuming in order for it to make any useful contribution to deliberations concerning the District’s 2007 operating budget. We note that it is not until phase three that the task force might [our emphasis added] consider ideas about improving the District’s operating efficiency and effectiveness.
In contrast, our proposed Budget and Operational Efficiency Committee would ideally consist of only five members, as opposed to the ten proposed for the task force, and would involve, as chair, only one member of Council, as opposed to the two proposed for the task force.
More importantly, our proposed committee would have a much more restricted mandate than that suggested for the task force and, accordingly, ought to be able to complete its work in sufficient time to make a valuable contribution to the District’s 2007 budget process. We see no apparent reason at this time to begin an examination of municipal service delivery levels which, in any event, ought to be subject to regular ongoing review by municipal staff in consultation with the public.
According to the District’s own periodic public opinion surveys, West Vancouver residents seem comfortable with the existing levels of municipal services. Nobody appears to be asking that they be subjected to study by a task force. However, we believe, as do many others with whom this matter has been discussed in recent weeks, that the same or enhanced service levels can be delivered by the District for fewer, perhaps considerably fewer, tax dollars.
The immediate need, in our view, is for a timely and thorough analysis of the operational efficiency, or lack thereof, of our municipal government. Accordingly, our proposed committee would focus its attention solely upon an enquiry into and the making of recommendations concerning ways and means of effecting cost savings in the operation of our District’s government.
On behalf of ITAC, yours respectfully,
David O. Marley

One response

27 02 2010
I.F. HAWORTH

Looking for (another) good up-date.

Splended work

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