Vancouver mayor strikes task force to go over budget with ‘fine-toothed comb’

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Vancouver mayor appoints independent task force to go over budget
WATCH: Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim appoints an independent task force to take a look at the city's books, to help prevent another double-digit property tax increase. Travis Prasad reports. – Apr 3, 2023

Vancouver’s mayor announced a task force Monday that will look for “efficiencies” and new revenue opportunities in the city’s future operating budgets.

“When we made the difficult decision to increase property taxes by 10.7 per cent we made a promise to Vancouverites and Vancouver taxpayers,” Mayor Ken Sim said Monday.

“We promised that as we looked to the future, large tax increases could not become the norm. And we promised to do everything we can do within our power to proactively address budgetary challenges and find ways to utilize taxpayer funds more effectively.”

The task force will be led by Randy Pratt, president of Nampa Enterprises, and made up of high-profile business leaders, chartered professional accountants and chartered financial analysts.

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Click to play video: 'Vancouver hikes property taxes 10.7%'
Vancouver hikes property taxes 10.7%

It will also feature some well-known names as stakeholder-advisers, including Greater Vancouver Board of Trade president and CEO Bridgitte Anderson, former deputy premier and current BC Ferries Board Chair Joy MacPhail and former Musqueam councillor Wade Grant.

ABC Vancouver councillors Lenny Zhou and Brian Montague will represent council.

All of the task force members are volunteering their time, Sim said, leaving the city with a “minimal” cost to cover for the initiative.

Sim said the task force is charged with going through the city’s budget with a “fine-toothed comb,” and will produce a report and recommendations within six months.

“At the end of the day the recommendations will be very transparent and the city will be able to see them,” Sim said.

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“We will look at all the recommendations and we will probably implement a lot of them. But we do reserve the right, if we can make a very sound argument of why we would not accept one of the recommendations, we’ll have that conversation as well.”

The task force’s scope will not include a review of the Vancouver Police Department’s spending, which makes up about 20 per cent of the city’s annual operating budget.

It will also not look at the budgets of the Vancouver Park Board of Vancouver Public Library.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver council approves huge property tax increase'
Vancouver council approves huge property tax increase

Anderson hailed the new task force as a “positive step that brings transparency to the city’s budgeting process,” adding that businesses are facing tax increases while still coping with the effects of the pandemic, inflation and a labour shortage.

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“It is critical that the city budget is affordable for businesses as they work to support jobs in the city,” she said.

OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle said she supported the task force, but wanted to see its scope modified.

“Specifically: I think the scope should rule out cuts to frontline services, and look at ways to generate revenue to improve them,” she said in a statement.

Boyle said the task force should also review park board spending — including the $70 million approved to remove and eventually replace the Stanley Park bike lane — and whether recent funding increases for police and public safety is having an effect.

“Our public safety problems are too dire to just assume what we are doing is working,” she said.

“I believe that the scope should include measuring the performance of recent investments made by this Council in the Vancouver police department. If they’re working, great. If not, we need to look at other approaches.”

The task force has been given until Oct. 3, 2023, to complete its work.

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