Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer has called it the “moneyball” budget.
So have members of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s staff.
What the heck are they talking about?
If you saw the movie Moneyball or read the bestseller by author Michael Lewis, then you’ll know it has to do with baseball.
Specifically, it has to do with using metrics, or measurements, to track the success or failure of a team based on a series of mind-boggling percentages and statistics of each ball player.
In approving the city’s $1.1 billion operating and $258 million capital budgets Tuesday, which came with an average two per cent property tax hike, city council heralded in a new era of keeping the city’s financial books in order.
Vision Coun. Raymond Louie, head of council’s finance committee, acknowledged the city has tracked spending to a “certain level” in previous years.
“But it hasn’t done it in a coordinated fashion at the departmental level and then brought it to the main operating budget,” Louie told the Courier after Tuesday’s vote. “So we haven’t seen, as a council, the implications of our operating budget [expenditures] on the various departments and what sort of results that we’re getting.”
Previously, the focus was primarily on spending. The operating and capital budgets were also examined separately in two reports at two different times. Not this time, as the 173-page report illustrates.
So why hasn’t council taken the “moneyball” approach before?
“That’s a good question,” said Louie, who recalled asking former city manager Judy Rogers for information on spending and having to request a full report be done for council.
The new method comes after Price Waterhouse Coopers conducted a so-called “best practices” review of at least 100 organizations to determine the best way to deliver and track a budget.
Now, Louie said, the city can closely track, for example, the number of potholes street workers fill, the number of fire inspections conducted by firefighters and how often city ice rinks are used.
“These things are now into a stream that we can see on an ongoing basis and whether or not we’re actually improving service, or not,” he added.
NPA councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball, along with Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr, wanted more detail in the budget that included all the city’s spending.
Ball noted the budget for the Vancouver Economic Commission and how much the city receives in gaming revenue weren’t included in the budget.
Neither was the 20 per cent increase to the mayor’s office budget over four years, said Affleck, who accused his Vision counterparts of “telling a great story” about the budget but being short on detail.
“I tell stories to my kids at bedtime, but at budget time I want detail,” he told council.
Affleck also pointed out the two per cent property tax hike is more a 2.75 per cent increase for residents when utility fee increases are included. For businesses, it’s a 1.4 per cent increase.
The budget includes $14.4 million for parks and open spaces, $9.6 million for affordable housing, $2 million for the beginning of a three-year experiment with the creation of a team of unarmed peace officers and $11.8 million for improvements related to biking and pedestrians.
The majority of the city’s budget comes from property taxes. For every tax dollar collected in Vancouver, the federal government receives 60 cents, the provincial government gets 32 cents and the city is left with eight cents.
The Vancouver Charter, which is the rulebook for the city to operate, prohibits the city from running a deficit.