The only good news in a report that labels B.C. municipalities as “worst to least worst” is that Qualicum Beach and Parksville are in the latter category.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently released its fourth municipal spending watch report. It tracks municipalities’ operational spending over 10 years, with a critical eye on how much local governments are spending to keep operating. The report also suggests if municipalities spent less in their operating budgets, taxpayers would have saved money — although the report does not reference municipal taxation levels, the main revenue generator for towns and cities.
CFIB stated in a media release the report shows municipal operating spending has ballooned to nearly four times the rate of population growth in B.C.
“We’re seeing local government spend more than ever, faster than ever,” said Shachi Kurl, CFIB Director of Provincial Affairs, BC and Yukon. “It’s just not sustainable over time.”
According to the report, Lytton, B.C. is the worst, having seen a 161 per cent increase in per capita operational spending in 10 years, with a 29 per cent decrease in its population over the same time.
On Vancouver Island, Sooke is listed as the worst — with a 15 per cent population growth, compared with a 246 per cent jump in per capita operational spending (or $702 per resident in 2009). CFIB claims that a family of four in Sooke could have saved $8,909 over the last 10 years, had the municipality held operating spending to population and inflation growth.
Both Parksville and Qualicum Beach are ranked in the “least worst” category — they come in near the bottom of the study on both the Island an across B.C.
What that means, according to the CFIB report, is both Qualicum Beach and Parksville aren’t spending as much on their operating expenses (compared with their population growth) as other municipalities.
Over the last 10 years, the report shows Qualicum Beach had a 26 per cent population jump (14 per cent in Parksville). In that time, QB decreased its operational spending (per capita) by four per cent. Parksville decreased by five per cent. Oddly, the report states that a family of four in Qualicum Beach would have paid (or did pay) $3,795 more over that period — despite the town’s drop in per capita spending. In Parksville, a family of four could have saved $2,592.
The report does not explain how it comes up with those savings amounts.
The CFIB report does recommend that municipalities limit operating spending increases to the rate of population and inflation growth. It also has been lobbying the province to create a municipal auditor general — a proposal opposed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
To see the CFIB report, visit http://www.cfib-fcei.ca.