$3.1B budget surplus in 2021 for BC municipalities
Since 2017, municipalities across the province have collectively accumulated a surplus each year budget that exceeds $2 billion.
Municipalities in British Columbia have never been in better financial health. Government data shows that municipalities have collectively accumulated a budget surplus of $3.1 billion in 2021, a record number.
This includes a surplus of $538 million for Vancouver , $305 million for Surrey and $432 million for Burnaby, which has the largest financial reserves in the province, with $1.9 billion in net financial assets.
We are lucky to be in a good situation, says Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley. “It's thanks to those who came before us, many years ago, who created a good base from which we work. »
The mayor nevertheless qualifies this amount, because part of this reserve will be reduced in the years to come, while the municipal council voted in 2022 to spend $504 million to replace several swimming pools and recreation centers while building new facilities.
Burnaby is one of 19 municipalities in the province to be debt-free, and the mayor says he intends to stay that way. Since 2017, municipalities across the province have collectively accumulated a budget surplus that exceeds $2 billion each year.
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The reasons for this culture of municipal financial prudence in British Columbia are manifold. One is that municipalities are not legally allowed to take on debt as part of their annual operating budget.
Another key factor , which does not apply to Vancouver and Surrey, is that most cities avoid incurring large debt for capital assets, in part because several communities had serious financial difficulties in the 80s and 90s.
You have to be very careful, says Delta Mayor George Harvie, who served as Delta's city manager for two decades before taking office. In 2021, the Municipality had a surplus of $31.1M, and only has $313,328 in total authorized debt.
Surpluses are interesting, but when you consider them as a percentage of our overall operating budget, it's not that much, he says.
In addition to keeping reserves for future infrastructure spending, many municipalities use their surpluses to create stabilization funds that can reduce the rate of tax increases during tougher fiscal years.
Each City is in a difficult process. I think this year has been particularly difficult because of inflation, says Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. The Municipality plans to increase the property tax by 5.89% in 2023, but the increase would have been 6.5% if Richmond had not dipped into its reserves. The goal, explains the mayor, is to limit the increase as much as possible in relation to the increase in the cost of living.
Mike Hurley ensures that the margin of There is little maneuvering as municipalities feel more pressure to fund services, including housing and childcare, that they were not used to providing.
With information from Justin McElroy