Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts on Langley City's proposed budget and policing costs

An overview of the City of Langley's 2013 – 2017 Financial Plan which includes the 2013 operating and capital budgets were presented at last night’s council meeting. For more information on some of the major capital items in this year’s proposed budget, I suggest that you check out a previous post I wrote on the topic.

The City’s total proposed operating budget for 2013 is $38.1 million with a projected increase in revenue of about 1.5% which is less than the rate of inflation. Like other municipalities, policing is the largest item ($10.1 million) in the operating budget accounting for 26.4% of this budget. In the Township of Langley, policing costs consumes 23% of their budget. While policing is certainly needed, I feel that the slow downloading of policing costs over the years to local government is hurting the ability of municipalities to provide other core services like great public spaces, recreation, water, and sewer services. If policing is to become an ever increasing part of local government budgets, new funding tools should be available like a local sales tax that could be offset by a reduced federal sales tax to be able to pay for these increasing costs. Funding policing with property tax is certainly not sustainable. To put things into perspective, the total proposed 2013 capital budget for the City of Langley is $10.5 million. Imagine all the other projects the City could complete (like replacing the sidewalks that are falling apart in Downtown Langley) if changes were made to how policing is funded. Of course in other parts of the world, police departments have also had to look at innovative ways of policing that don’t increase head count. Maybe that is something we should more aggressively be demanding of departments in Canada as well.

In the City of Langley, currently 52% of total property tax is received from residential properties. The City is working on shifting the split of property tax paid toward business properties to be more in line with Metro Vancouver averages.

More information on the financial plan is available in this week’s council package.

February 20th: I've updated the budget numbers as I used some incorrect information.

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