Tuesday, May 11, 2021

COVID-19 pandemic impacts on Langley City’s 2020 finances

As per provincial law, municipalities in BC must reconcile their previous year’s budget with their actual financial results. Municipalities must also have their financial results independently audited annually.

Langley City’s independent auditor presented to Council about her audit of the City’s financials. She did not raise any red flags to Council.

The following sections highlight some of the significant differences between the 2020 budget, which Council approved, and staff developed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff budgeted $7.2 million in gaming proceeds from the casino, but because the casino closed at the start of the pandemic, the City only received $1.5 million in proceeds. However, the federal/provincial COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant of $4.2 million that the City received helped offset this loss in proceeds.

City staff budgeted $31.8 million in property tax revenue for 2020. Instead, the City collected $30.4 million in property tax. This $1.4 million gap was due to the COVID-19 pandemic creating financial hardships for property owners.

Overall planned spending was reduced from $52.9 million to $48.5 million, a difference of $4.4 million. This reduction was mainly due to unfilled staff positions and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also interesting to note was a reduction in water usage in 2020. In addition, the City’s conversion of streetlights to LED resulted in a $49,000 reduction in maintenance costs. Costs associated with vandalism and expenses related to cleaning up campsites in our parks were $58,000 over budget in 2020.

The City transfers a portion of the revenue received to reserve accounts. Reserve accounts are used to fund building and renewing City infrastructure and one-off initiatives such as updating the Offical Community Plan.

The City transferred the cost savings of $494,583 in policing to the “future police costs” reserve account. The City also topped up the prosperity fund by $1 million. While the City transferred $5.6 million less to the gaming proceeds reserve than budgeted, it transferred $5.3 million more than budgeted to the capital works reserve due to the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant and operational savings.

Overall, the City is in good financial health.

For more information, please read the staff report on the 2020 financials as well as a draft of the 2020 Consolidated Financial Statements.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Spring Metro Vancouver Council of Councils Meeting: Budgets, Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy, TransLink’s Transport 2050 Strategy

Twice a year, elected local representatives gather for a Metro Vancouver Regional District Council of Councils meeting. During the meeting, we hear updates from regional district staff and have the opportunity to ask questions of regional district staff.

On Saturday, around 120 local representatives attended a Zoom meeting.

I virtually attended Saturday’s Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting.

Regional district staff noted that the 2021 operation budget is $939.5 million, with the loin’s share of expense for water and liquid waste services. The capital budget for 2021 is $1.5 billion, funding significant wastewater treatment plant new-builds and renewals. The capital budget is funding by a combination of operation budget contributions, developer charges, and debt.

Staff also noted that they are continually looking to find new revenue streams and cost-saving opportunities. For example, they said selling natural gas as a byproduction of liquid waste management is a new revenue stream.

Metro Vancouver’s Climate Action Committee chair presented roadmaps for our region to become carbon neutral by 2050. One of the direct actions that municipalities can take is to adopt higher steps of the BC Energy Step Code. Metro Vancouver will encourage all municipalities to adopt Step 4 or 5.

I posted the transportation and housing updates for Metro 2050, the region’s proposed updated new regional growth strategy, last week. Regional district staff highlighted Metro 2050, including:

  • Creating a compact urban area
  • Strengthening the Urban Contain Boundary by focusing growth in urban centres and transit corridors
  • Protecting industrial land, local food production, and food security
  • Protecting conservation and recreation land
  • Protecting, restoring, and connecting ecosystems throughout the region by ensuring 50% of the region is natural areas
  • Reducing GHG emissions through land-use and settlement patterns.
  • Expanding the variety and supply of housing
  • Increasing affordable housing with a focus on affordable housing near transit
  • Supporting sustainable transportation choices like walking, cycling, and transit

Metro Vancouver staff stated that housing affordability is still the most significant concern among elected officials.

TransLink is also working on Transport 2050, which is the region’s transportation strategy. TransLink and Metro Vancouver staff are coordinating both Metro 2050 and Transport 2050.

The goals of Transport 2050 are to increase convenient, reliable, affordable, safe & comfortable, and carbon-free transportation options.

The plan has the following goals:

  • People take 50% of all trips by walking, cycling, or transit
  • People spend 20% less time stuck in congestion compared to 2019
  • People spend no more than 45% of their income on housing and transportation
  • There are no serious traffic injuries or fatalities, with reductions every year
  • By 2030, transportation-related GHG emissions will be cut in half and be zero in 2050

TransLink is making a big push for Vision Zero and slower streets in Transport 2050. TransLink staff also noted that they are looking at interregional rail to Squamish and the Fraser Valley in Transport 2050.

On autonomous vehicles, TransLink will be pushing a car-sharing model; otherwise, if we all own autonomous vehicles, there will be a massive increase in congestion.

Metro Vancouver staff noted that they are improving public notification and alerting around the Cleveland Dam and the Capilano River.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Outdoor seating for restaurants, breweries, and caf├ęs increase positive energy in Downtown Langley

This last year has been extremely challenging for businesses and people that work in the hospitality, food, and beverage sector. Yet, I’ve seen the resiliency and adaptability of both business owners and workers.

I’ve seen an increase in the number of businesses that have created outdoor seating spaces in parking lots, sidewalks, and plazas. While it is a product of necessity, it has also enhanced the vibrancy of our Downtown by increasing positive activity.

Over the weekend, I noticed that some of the surface parking lots in Downtown Langley are hosting outdoor seating spaces. It brought some positive activity to areas that generally see little activity.

Outdoor seating for Brogan’s Diner and Farm Country Brewing. Select image to enlarge.

This seating compliments the sidewalk and plaza seating which has been around for the last little bit.

Outdoor seating behind Viva Mexico Restaurant. Select image to enlarge.

While everyone is eager for the safe return of indoor seating, I hope that the experience of outdoor seating will become a seasonal fixture in our Downtown as it adds positive energy and excitement to our civic core.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Metro Vancouver Regional District looking to improve walkability, support the transition to EVs, and reduce the negative impacts of goods movement on people’s health

As I posted yesterday, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff are updating the Regional Growth Strategy. All municipalities must adhere to this strategy, and all municipal councils must agree to adopt the strategy. As a result, the region only updates this strategy every 15 years. The name of the updated strategy is Metro 2050.

Yesterday’s post focused on proposed updates to the strategy to strengthen policies for affordable housing and housing for people with lower incomes. Today, I will post about updates to the strategy’s goal to support sustainable transportation choices such as using transit, cycling, walking, or wheeling as well as goods movement.

Metro 2050 will align with TransLink’s Transport 2050 long-range plan. Metro 2050 addresses land-use policies that impact people’s transportation choices, while Transport 2050 will focus on delivering regional transportation infrastructure and transit service.

Municipalities in our region will be required to update their Offical Community Plans to show:

  • How their land-use policies will encourage more people to walk, cycle, take transit, or carpool
  • How they will enhance walkability, including providing an accessible, grid-like pedestrian network
  • How they will support managing parking supply, implementing transit priority measures, rideshare, mobility pricing, and car-sharing
  • How they will support the transition to zero-emission vehicles such as requiring EV charging in new multifamily housing
  • How they will support the completion of the Regional Greenways 2050 plan
  • How they will coordinate with adjacent jurisdictions for inter-connectivity
  • Safe and efficient routes for moving goods and service vehicles
  • Land-use and other policies to optimize the transportation of goods from industrial areas to shipping facilities such as ports, airports, railways, and major highways
  • Land-use policies that support e-commerce distribution
  • Policies and actions to minimize public exposure to unhealthy levels of noise, vibration, and pollution caused by the use of major transportation corridors

For more information, please read the May 7th Regional Planning Committee agenda.