The City of Langley has posted information online about the proposed 2013 capital budget and 2013-2017 financial plan. The full details of the budget (including operating expenses) will be posted online once it has been presented at the February 4th council meeting. One of the challenges with local government revenue is that it is almost entirely dependent on property tax. Unlike sales tax or income tax, it is not directly tied to economic productivity and doesn’t naturally adjust for inflation.
The City of Langley has been using proceeds from the Cascades Casino (which opened in 2005) to pay for capital works projects. Casino revenue peaked at $7.4 million in 2007 and has been decreasing ever since. In 2013, the City expects to receive $5.8 million in casino proceeds.
Due to lower property values, lower casino proceeds, and inflation, the City of Langley will be looking at a 2.63% property tax increase just to keep the City working. With the continued financial pressure that local governments face to provide essential services, the provincial and federal governments really need to look at giving local government new funding tools especially as they continue to download services. For example due to the Harper government's budget bill, the City's budget message states “Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has eliminated DFO habitat officers which will now put the onus on local governments to address fish habitat issues.”
The City of Langley's proposed 2013 capital works program is fairly modest with $10.6 million worth of new spending. I understand the pressure to keep taxes low, but I have to wonder if the capital works program has the funding to keep the City in a state of good repair, let alone build for the future. For example, Downtown Langley's public realm is pretty worn-out with fading streetlamps and crumbling sidewalks.
Some of the major capital works projects for 2013 include:
Robert Bank Rail Corridor Overpasses: $2.8 million
The City's contribution to the 196 St rail overpass project in partnership with the City of Surrey, as the Project Delivery Agent for the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Combo Project
Signal Upgrades Various (DCC-R): $500,000
Traffic signal equipment has a best practice life expectancy - 12 years for the cabinet and controller and 25 years for the signal heads, poles and wiring. An on-going annual program to rehabilitate the signals is needed.
Pedestrian Facilities (Floodplain bridge): $200,000
In 2013 includes, replacement of 3 pedestrian bridges in the floodplain. In future years, includes the procurement of land and construction activities associated with providing sidewalk, off-street multi-use pathways.
Glover Road Gateway Enhancements: $237,000
To provide a sense of arrival at the Glover Road gateway to the City.
48 Ave, 205 St to 208 St: $670,000
To improve safety of school children walking along 48 Ave by widening 48 Ave from 205A St to 207 St to allow for a pedestrian sidewalk and parallel parking.
The City of Langley with be spending $1.2 million on water utility capital projects.
There are two smaller projects that I’m excited about. One is a $65,000 project to “retrofit the curb bulge area where the existing pedestrian crosswalk is located on Fraser Highway and McBurney Lane to accentuate the McBurney Lane redevelopment.” The other is to spend $67,000 in 2013 to impediment phase 1 of a multi-year wayfinding strategy which you can read about on an earlier post. It looks like the current funding for the wayfinding strategy is 50% less than what was called for in the original report, so I wonder what part got cut.
I always find it disheartening that the City includes a financial plan line item to improve cycling facilities (lanes, signage, etc) that always seems to gets deferred to future years. With cost saving on everyone's mind, cycling is actually one of the most cost effect forms of transportation to build and use.
The City will be holding a public hearing on Monday, February 18th at 7pm in Council Chambers after the presentation of the Financial Plan.