Monday, June 12, 2017

Visualizing local government expenses in Metro Vancouver: policing, fire, and parks top the list

Last year, I explored how Langley City compared to other municipalities when it comes to operating expenses. I used absolute dollars based on the latest information from the BC Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development.

While this information provided some insight, there is a better way to represent this information that is easier to visualize and can encompass all municipalities in Metro Vancouver.

The following treemap shows the percentage of total operating expenses by type of service provided in each municipality in our region. The treemap contains services that are common to most municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Services that are only provided by some municipalities are not included for readability. Because of this, the size of each municipality’s square has meaning. The select services do not add to up 100%.

For example, New Westminster has an electrical utility. Because the sizable utility is not included in the treemap, the square for New Westminster is smaller to reflect that.

Treemap of percentage of total 2015 operating expenses by type of service provided in each municipality in Metro Vancouver. Select treemap to enlarge. Source: BC Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development

Anmore, Belcarra, Bowen Island, and Lions Bay are smaller communities. Because of their size, the provincial government covers 100% of policing costs. Unlike other municipality in the region, each of these communities’ service profiles are unique.

For all other municipalities in Metro Vancouver, protective services are by far the largest expenses. These services account for between 21% and 38% of total operating expenses. Langley City invests more into protective services as a total of all operating expenses than any other municipality in the region. Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services is the second largest area where municipalities in Metro Vancouver invest.

One of the things that stands out is how similar municipalities in our region are when it comes to where they choose to invest. Policing and fire services are somewhat fixed costs in our region. What is most interesting to me is the across-the-board levels of investment for Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services. Providing great public spaces, and access to libraries, arts, and recreation opportunities is clearly an important value for people in our region.

The following is a legend for the treemap:

Administrative, legislative, financial, human resources, and information technology operating expenses.

Police, fire, bylaw, and other protective services operating expenses.

Recycling, garbage, and organics collection/disposal operating expenses.

Land-use planning, business licensing, economic development, and other development services operating expenses.

Roads, sidewalks, street lighting, parking, and other transportation operating expenses.

Parks, recreations, library and other cultural operating expense.

Water services operating expenses.

Sewer services operating expenses.

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