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Municipal Operating Spending Climbs by 80% in Metro Vancouver Since 2000

Municipal Operating Spending Climbs by 80% in Metro Vancouver Since 2000 – Out of Step with Other Levels of Government and with Taxpayers’ Ability to Pay

May 29, 2012 (Vancouver, BC) – A recent analysis prepared by the Business Council of British Columbia finds that the total operating spending in Metro Vancouver municipalities jumped by 80 per cent between 2000 and 2010; when adjusted for population growth and inflation, the average real per capita municipal operating spending increased by 32 per cent over the period, outpacing population growth and inflation. This rate of growth also outpaces that of the provincial government, which has increased real per capita spending 10 per cent over the same period.

“Overall municipal government spending has increased markedly in Metro Vancouver municipalities in a way that seems out of step with other levels of government,” said Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia. “Continuous increases in property tax in Metro Vancouver over the last decade have provided a reliable stream of revenue, sparing Metro area municipalities from much of the fiscal restraint pressures experienced by other levels of government.”

“Residents and businesses are looking for leaders to hold the line on spending and find ways to create efficiencies, collaborate, and use best practices to reallocate expenditures to the highest priority areas,” said Finlayson.

The Business Council analysis, Up and Away: The Growth of Municipal Spending in Metro Vancouver found that overall municipal spending in Metro Vancouver municipalities between 2000 and 2010 has grown by 80 percent. When this number is adjusted for inflation and population growth, spending rose by 32 per cent over the decade. Spending has been increasing irrespective of economic conditions or changes in taxpayers’ ability to pay. Municipal operating expenditures of all 21 Metro Vancouver municipal governments, which excludes capital spending, increased to $3.1 billion in 2010 from $1.7 billion in 2000. When adjusted for population, the average real per capita municipal spending has grown from $844 per person to provide services in 2000 to $1,321 per person in 2010.

The study also found that the total number of local government employees across the province grew by 29 per cent between 2001 and 2011, which suggests that municipal payrolls expanded by at least this much in the Metro Vancouver area. Municipal employment growth was significantly greater than the 18 per cent increase in total employment across the province during the same period. It also outpaced the growth in employment in the provincial health care system, which has seen a rapid expansion of funding over the last 10 years.

“As the provincial economy takes on an increasingly global perspective, municipalities must turn their attention to finding efficiencies, improving productivity and increasing competitiveness,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO, Business Council of British Columbia. “We encourage municipalities to explore the potential for joint procurement and greater cross-municipal delivery of services. Residents and businesses would also benefit from increased collaboration across and between levels of government to foster conditions which support business growth and the creation of well-paying jobs to support enhanced well-being for metro Vancouver residents.”

At more than $2,040 per person, West Vancouver stands out as the biggest per capita spender in Metro Vancouver, followed by New Westminster ($1,506) and the City of Vancouver ($1,461). At the other end of the scale, Surrey spent $750 per person on operations and offers good value for the local services provided. The growth of real per capita spending from 2000 to 2010 was greatest in Lions Bay, Pitt Meadows and Langley District, while New Westminster, Burnaby and Port Moody were notably successful in containing spending increases.

The full report is available online at http://www.bcbc.com/pdfs/PPv19n2.pdf

The Business Council of British Columbia, now in its 46th year as the premier business organization in BC, represents over 250 leading companies and enterprises in every key sector of the economy. Our member companies and affiliated industry association partners together account for one quarter of all jobs in the province.

Media Contact
Cheryl Muir
604-696-65829 (d)
604-812-5965 (c)
cheryl.muir@bcbc.com