Many City residents have long held to the belief that the City is a much more efficient municipality to manage and operate than it’s neighbours, due to the denser nature of its size and population. The local comparisons being the Districts of North and West Vancouver, whose populations and land mass vary dramatically as described below:
Municipality Population Physical Size
City of North Vancouver 51,083 12.0 sq/kilometers District of North Vancouver 87,113 160.5 sq/kilometers District of West Vancouver 44,294 87.4 sq/kilometers
I find it worrisome that while the argument the City should be more efficient than our neighboring municipalities has a solid foundation, based on our condensed size and large population, the truth is that on a per capita basis, our efficiency, when compared to our neighbours, is declining quickly and we are now the least efficient of all three.
A home situated in North Vancouver City, determined by the BC Assessment Authority to have a value of $1,000,000, pays virtually the same amount for municipal property taxes in the City as a house having the same value but which is located in the District. The City’s finance department argues that our homes are actually cheaper because the same $1,000,000 home in the City would have a value of $1,200,000 or more in the District, and much more if situated in West Vancouver. I dispute this assertion.
A brand new “RS-1” home situated at the corner of 14th and Sutherland (in the City), when compared to a brand new home located across the street on the south side of 14th or on 13th street (in the District), have virtually the same market values, and suffer virtually the same municpal taxation burdens. These facts refute the City’s allegation that a comparable District dwelling is more expensive than the same dwelling located in the City.
Further, as argued by Councillor Heywood, the City’s “mil-rate” will continue to increase based on the City’s foray into social spending objectives which lie within the mandate of the provincial and/or federal governments. Simply put, we do not have the financial resources to be all things to all people in every social program area we would like to be able to resolve ,or in which we would like to make a difference. And quite frankly, as much as we would like to compel resolution in various of these area’s, our initiatives to do so should be limited to lobbying the proper levels of government to do a better job of doing their job, and not to burden City taxpayers with the cost of social programs which are simply beyond the affordability of City residents and businesses to absorb.
To the extent we are able to make a difference, without a negative financial impact on the City, I will support those plans, programs and objectives which bring result to social programs like social and affordable housing. But I will not support the commitment of City resources to do the job of provincial or federal government entities. Unless the City can get its spending habits and needs back under control, and quickly, it risks a forced amalgamation with the District, under potentially unfavourable terms.
For their part, unless the City can get it’s financial house back in order, the District would be well advised to pursue only greater cooperation in relation to infrastructure management, and resist amalgamation so as to protect District residents against exposure to the City’s ever increasing financial burden.
IT IS MY POSITION THAT the City should initiate an internal review of all its departments, to determine the value and efficiency of those departments, and whether they exist and operate for the benefit of residents or for the benefit of staff. I do not propose to attack a single outside City worker, or for that matter, the Fire Department. I believe that the City’s Yard staff and Fire Departments currently run very well. I would go so far as to give a commitment to both effected unions that I would not support one single reduction in current unionized staffing levels, and I would indeed support an initiate to study and determine whether we should re-internalize some of the activities we previously performed in-house, but for which we now contract out. However, I would initiate a thorough internal review of City Hall to ensure each department is providing value to City residents, of a nature City residents seek and support. There are many around me who believe that a number of the development changes our City is experiencing are driven by the job security needs of City Hall staff, and not as a result of the needs, wants and wishes of City residents. This would change! The first thing that I would commit to do in this area is;
- Support a motion in favor of initiating a provincially funded study in respect of the efficiencies which would arise from greater cooperative management of various City and District services and departments; and
- Compel this study to examine all the City and District administrative level’s, on an indepth, not superficial basis, including the officers, directors, councillors and mayors offices, with the intent of determining the true savings to be achieved from greater municipal cooperation of the various management functions versus the costs currently bourn by City and District taxpayers for parallel stand-alone management systems.
Many City staff will look at this commitment as I have set it out above, and they may say; Oppose this position with vigor ! To those of you who respond with this message, my question to you is; Why ?
If the City’s internal management mechanisms, at all levels, are the best and most cost effective they can be, then surely a well designed and properly tasked study will disclose these facts. Further, this provincially funded study will not cost City or District taxpayers one cent. Surely this study will uncover the proof of a strong well management City Hall! As a result, everyone at City Hall would enjoy enhanced job security. On the other hand, if the City is not being as efficiently operated as it could or should be, the resulting study may precipitate a different outcome. It is my position that City Hall staff should welcome such a review with open arms and minds !