Vancouver homeowners are bracing for the highest tax increase in the region
A little while ago, we wrote about how Vancouver City Hall could help reduce costs and keep tax hikes to a minimum. Our CityCaucus.com team thought it might be prudent to review those cost-cutting tips now that City Manager Penny Ballem has introduced her draft 2009 budget.
We should note off the top that Budget 2009 proposes to increase the annual budget for the Mayor and Councillors from $1,976,000 to $2,068,000. This is an increase of $92,000 or 4.5% compared to last year. The current rate of inflation is about 1%. Meanwhile, elected officials in Canada's other big cities are doing their part by forgoing pay hikes and freezing their office budgets during the recession.
It is worth mentioning there was almost no meaningful dialogue with front-line City workers regarding their opinion on how to save costs at City Hall. We're pretty confident if they had been properly canvassed, they could have come up with some very creative ideas on how to trim the budget. In any event, the following is a recap of our previously posted cost-cutting proposals.
- Put an immediate freeze on the Mayor's office budget for three years. Mayor Robertson has increased the size of his political staff when compared to the past Sullivan and Campbell administrations. A more prudent course would be to live within the same dollars allotted to previous mayor's offices.
- Commit to a salary freeze for all City Councillors for 2 years. No one is expecting Vancouver's economy to improve much before 2011.
- Place a one-year freeze on all discretionary travel. No junkets, no unnecessary trips outside the city paid for by taxpayers.
- Put an immediate spending limit on all hosted catered events. The City of Vancouver spends a TON on food and beverages for events that could either be reduced or ended outright.
- Eliminate the gourmet dinners & lunches prepared for City Councillors during public meetings, and return to a more modest "bag lunch" style of meal.
- Enforce the practice of shutting down all computers and unused lights throughout City Hall. During last Spring's Earth Day lights out event this proved to be a worthwhile cost saving measure. The City should be an example to us all.
- Eliminate monthly car allowance and provide monthly single-zone transit passes for all elected officials (reminder to Mayor Robertson, be sure to upgrade when visiting Burnaby).
- Reduce the amount of paper printing in reports. Entire forests go into photocopying at City Hall. Find reasons to end this now.
- Relax garbage collection schedules for residences while maintaining recycling pick-up. CUPE's 2007 garbage strike taught us we can live with less service. It's time to act on this now.
- Survey all city employees on ways they could reduce spending by 2%. The best ideas will come from Vancouver's rank and file civil service on ways to reduce spending. Post their input on the City's website, and act on these recommendations as soon as possible.
For other cost cutting tips, we suggest you read the following post. Ok, now back to regularly scheduled programming.