Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Deeper Dive into Langley City’s Proposed 2023 Budget: On-going Operating Budget

Yesterday, I posted about the overall proposed Langley City 2023 budget and how it will impact property taxes and user fees residential and business property owners may pay to the City this year.

Today, I wanted to share what items impact taxes and user fees in the City based on the priorities that Council has set.

I encourage you to read my previous post, which provides the needed background information for today’s post.

Maintain Current Service Levels (Inflation)
  • Employee wages and benefits – collective agreements: $1,226,070
  • RCMP contract and detachment costs: $521,515
  • Fire training, maintenance supplies, dispatch costs: $168,340
  • Bank charges and tax prepayment interest: $168,250
  • Various supplies and contracted services: $117,735
  • Discover Langley City – tourism marketing: $80,000
  • Solid waste services: $42,040
  • FVRL – library services: $68,015
  • Long-term debt servicing $65,835
  • IT security and software support: $43,500
  • Financial audit fees: $29,000
  • Council remuneration, travel and benefits: $25,685
Preparing for SkyTrain
  • $15m (new debt servicing costs): $1,278,930
Investing in the Basics
  • Additional transfer to capital projects reserves for infrastructure renewal: $333,650
Enhancing Public Safety
  • Hire 2 Firefighters / Public Safety Personnel: $523,820
Addressing Poverty, Health and Homelessness
  • Social Planning Services: $180,930
Other Service Improvements
  • Urban Forest Maintenance & Watering: $140,000
  • Recreation (Supporting children & aquatics programs): $141,665
  • Enhance Community Events: $39,900
  • Maintain Downtown Summer and Winter Displays in Downtown, McBurney Plaza and Douglas Park: $35,000
  • Community Newsletters – Increase Government Transparency: $25,000
  • Other Service Level Increments: $98,880

I should note “Maintain Current Service Levels” are offset by about $1.9 million in additional revenue the City is budgeting to receive this year as a result of redevelopment, investments, and fees (that aren’t collected on your property tax bill.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Langley City’s 2023 Budget: Preparing for SkyTrain, Investing in the Basics, Enhancing Public Safety, and Addressing Poverty, Health, and Homelessness

Langley City Council works with City staff to develop policies for the municipality and sets the direction for the municipality. The budget is the document that helps turn these policies and directions into actions.

Yesterday, Council introduced its proposed 2023 budgets by giving it first and second reading.

There are four main pillars in the 2023 budget: preparing for SkyTrain, investing in the basics, enhancing public safety, and addressing poverty, health, and homelessness.

Over the next week, I’ll go into more detail about the proposed budget, but I wanted to highlight some of the major initiatives.

Council is planning to borrow $15 million to purchase property and fund SkyTrain-related improvements, such as road realignment, to ensure we maximize this $4 billion once-in-a-generation opportunity for residents and businesses in Langley City.

Council is also proposing increasing the property tax to help fund the much-needed replacement of worn roads and end-of-life water mains and sewer lines. Our community has an infrastructure deficit, and Council is working to close this gap. Council is proposing to add $150,000 more per year to the sewer capital reserve to bring the annual property tax contributions to $1 million. Council is also proposing to add $220,000 to the water capital reserve to bring the annual property tax contributions to $1 million. Finally, Council plans to increase the property tax to support other one-time capital projects by $333,650 to $2.2 million annually.

The City’s stable funding sources for one-time capital projects are property tax/user fees, the casino, TransLink, developer contributions, and the federal Canada Community-Building Fund. The breakdown is shown in the following interactive chart.

City also receives grants from the federal and provincial governments and TransLink to help fund specific projects. Because these grants are not stable funding sources, I did not include them in the chart.

Council is planning to invest an additional $523,000 to hire three new firefighters this year to keep up with the needs of our growing community.

The City plans to host a series of collaborative workshops with the province, service providers, and people with lived experience to address the gaps preventing meaningful action on addressing poverty, health, mental health, and homelessness in our community. Council is planning to add a staff member to help carry out this ongoing work.

Other critical action areas for Council this year include maintaining and growing our urban forest health to reduce the heat island effect and help mitigate the impacts of climate change, and continuing to invest in our recreation programs.

After carefully reviewing the budget, Council is maintaining the current service levels the City provides.

The following table outlines the property tax changes as a result.

Objective Additional Tax Required Tax Rate Impact
Maintain Current Service Level (Inflation) $1,085,385 3.24%
Preparing for SkyTrain $1,278,930 3.83%
Investing in the Basics $333,650 1%
Enhancing Public Safety $523,820 1.57%
Addressing Poverty, Health and Homelessness $180,930 0.54%
Urban Forest Management $140,000 0.42%
Recreation $121,665 0.37%
Other Service Level Increases $198,780 0.59%

The following table shows how it will impact your property tax bill.

Classification Average Assessed Value Annual Change Monthly Change % Change
Attached (Appartment-Townhouse) $582,203 $192 $16.00 11.56%
Detached (Single-Family) $1,403,232 $379 $31.60 10.09%

The average business property will see a proposed increase of 11.92% and the average light industrial property 11.98%.

The next step in the budget process is a public open house which will take place on Tuesday, February 7th, between 6 pm and 8 pm at Langely City Hall. This open house will allow people to talk with senior City staff about the proposed budget to learn more about it and get their questions answered. At the 7 pm February 13th City Council meeting, people will be able to provide formal feedback about the proposed 2023 budget to Council. Council will consider the input from the community and, at the February 27th meeting, will vote on moving the budget forward as currently proposed or with changes. The earliest Council could officially approve the budget is at the March 6th Council meeting.

Monday, January 30, 2023

TransLink ridership continues to rebound

Ridership on Metro Vancouver’s transit system continues to grow. At Thursday’s Mayors’ Council on Regional Transporation meeting, TransLink staff presented their latest ridership statistics.

94% of transit customers are back using the system, though with fewer trips. While people travel to shops, appointments, and recreation at similar levels to 2019, many office workers continue to work from home or partially work from home. This change means fewer trips on the transit system. One of the challenges this creates is lower fare revenue because fewer people are buying monthly passes and instead are paying as they go.

Increases in transit ridership in 2022 compared to historical ridership levels. Select the graphic to enlarge.

People who work in industrial areas in Port Kelly, Campbell Heights, Langley City, and throughout the region could never work from home. Transit usage in these areas has only continued to grow over the last few years.

Percentage change in annual service hours by subregion between April 2020 and January 2023. Select the map to enlarge.

Overcrowding is now a concern on some routes. TransLink will be reallocating service hours from routes with lower ridership recovery to fast-growing routes. This reallocation has resulted in more transit service in the South of Fraser. When TransLink is adjusting service hours, they are doing it in a way to maintain fast and frequent service. For example, they might reduce the frequency on some routes from 8 minutes to 10 minutes. With transit ridership still growing overall, there is only so much reallocation that TransLink can do without impacting the quality of transit service. The region will need stable ongoing funding from the province and federal governments to ensure we can continue to invest in transit service.

Today, Metro Vancouver has the 5th highest number of transit boardings in Canada and the US. To put that into context, Metro Vancouver is the 24th most populous region in Canada and the US.

Friday, January 27, 2023

TransLink Mayors’ Council gets to work on 10-Year Vision

Mayors’ Council

Yesterday, I attended the third Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting since the fall local government elections. The Mayors’ Council is one of the governing bodies of TransLink.

This meeting set the stage for the work the Mayors’ Council will complete over the next year. Earlier this week, I posted about the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Priorities Transportation Plan. The Mayors’ Council voted to endorse that Plan yesterday.

This Plan will be required to keep people moving and give people affordable travel options as our region grows. Currently, the new 10-Year Plan is unfunded. The priority of the Mayors’ Council will be to work with the federal and provincial governments to enable predictable, stable funding for TransLink to move the Plan forward.

As the Mayors’ Council has 23 members, the Council forms sub-groups to work on substantial policies, which get sent to the full Mayors’ Council for comment and, hopefully, eventual approval.

The Mayors’ Council sub-groups include:

Finance Committee — “This committee will provide input to and recommendations on the timing, pace and final shape for the next Investment Plan. In addition, the committee will be responsible for overseeing the Investment Plan’s funding strategy, and financial modelling and assumptions.”

Planning and Priorities Committee — “This committee will provide input on the processes and studies designed to prioritize TransLink plans, projects and services for funding and inclusion in upcoming investment plans. The committee will also be responsible for considering the development of other policy-related initiatives.”

Public Affairs and Governance Committee — “This committee’s mandate will primarily be external facing to provide input to communication and public advocacy efforts to secure senior government support for 10YP and the next Investment Plan. The committee will also consider the Council’s mandated “HR” responsibilities.”

Indigenous Relations Joint Advisory Working Group — “This joint working group was created in September 2022 to provide advice on the implementation of the reconciliation commitments in Transport 2050, including providing transit service to indigenous communities.”

Small Municipalities Caucus — “This caucus comprising the members of the 4-5 smallest local governments in the region have met informally and on an ad hoc basis for many years, to provide unique “small community” perspectives and inputs to regional policies and plans being considered by the Mayors’ Council. The caucus will meet as needed, likely 2-4 times per year, and will consider how proposed policies and plans may impact smaller local governments differently than other local governments in the region.”

Joint Governance Task Force — “This joint task force, comprising 3 members from each of the Board and Mayors’ Council, will develop recommendations for both bodies and the province to finalize and operationalize the governance changes proposed by Minister Heyman in a process to launch this month.”

The chair and vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council proposed a list of committee appointments. The Mayors’ Council approved the suggested appointments. The Council appointed me as vice-chair of the Finance Committee. You can read the complete list of appointments and more information about each committee’s work plan in the latest Mayors’ Council agenda.