Vancouverites will have to wait until the new year to see the results of a task force charged with finding ways to tighten up the city’s budget.
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim struck the Mayor’s Budget Task Force in April. It was charged with going through the city’s budget with a “fine-toothed comb.”
However, the project’s scope excludes spending by the Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Park Board and Vancouver Public Library.
The all-volunteer body, which was mostly made up of chartered accountants and business experts, was given an October deadline to produce its report.
On Tuesday, task force chair Randy Pratt told Vancouver city council they would need until Jan. 17 to deliver the final report.
“The solution to a problem is easier the further away you are from it,” Pratt told councillors.
Councillors received an interim report, but no document has yet been made public. Pratt instead gave councillors a high-level look at some of the ideas the report will contain.
The task force spent significant energy looking at the city’s “scope and mandate,” with Pratt suggesting the city had taken on too many jobs that aren’t its responsibility like health care, housing and climate change.
“There has been a gradual expansion of the mandate over time and those expansionary measures come with costs,” he said.
The report will call for the city to draft a policy defining Vancouver’s core mandate — along with “guardrails” to keep council decisions from going beyond it, he added.
The task force will also recommend the creation of a finance committee on council that would provide oversight on the budget process and control the arts, culture and community service grant process, he said.
Pratt also highlighted a “significant” challenge with ageing infrastructure – calling for the city to develop a new capital asset management framework — and to review assets in its capital fund asset portfolio to determine which ones the city should own or manage based on its “core mandate.”
“There are clearly assets that are underutilized in the form of service delivery but also other opportunities to monetize that in the public or operationally managing those,” he said.
It was not clear whether any of the task force’s recommendations will make it into the 2024 budget, which councillors are slated to begin debating next week.
The city’s draft operating budget proposes a property tax hike of 7.6 per cent.