The Township of Langley “SLIGHT OF HAND” in Out of Control Spending and Taxation….. Some facts behind what is really going on behind the scenes!

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have been searching for the best descriptive I could use to describe the dilemma of taxpayers in the Township of Langley, well here it is; – Rafe Mair’s Axiom – “You make a very serious mistake believing that people in charge know what the hell they are doing”. This BLOG Report on the FACTS on Spending and Taxation should give us all a lot to be concerned about!

On the Spending Side:

NEWS FLASH! – The NEW extensive Canadian Federation of Independent Business Report Municipal Spending Watch (Nov. 2013) shows –

The Township of Langley ranked the 3rd WORST in OPERATING spending out of 27 Municipalities and Cities from Lions Bay through to Hope in 2011 and 2010! This is not a one of, it is part of a long term inbred culture that I was unsuccessful in fighting against in my three years in the Mayor’s office. A forensic audit on Capital Spending would be even more enlightening. (A few examples of that are listed below)

The only Cities and Municipalities that were worse were the Villages of Lions Bay and Harrison Hot Springs, both with populations of approx. 1,500 each.

So how do we feel so far about the job this Municipal Council is doing?      

It is long past due that Township of Langley taxpayers should be awakened to what is being done to them every year and the accumulative effect of out of control spending and taxation. A few facts that should be clear when talking about spending –

  • An $800,000 expenditure in the Township of Langley equates to an approx. 1% tax increase.
  • A line that is often used by Municipalities is “they have to balance their budgets” per Provincial legislation – True except simple Math 101 will tell you that a) tax increases or b) increasing debt will solve that problem for municipal politicians and the bureaucracy in a heartbeat and they have learned that art form well. It does nothing to stop their thirst for your tax dollars.
  • Capital Spending – The outrageous and very questionable payment of an $8.6 million dollar Langley Event Center (LEC) settlement to the Langley Development Group  (Morey Keith was the principle in the Langley Development Group who was appointed and reappointed to the B.C. Lottery Board by Rich Coleman.)
  • Capital Spending – A $7.5 million expansion to the LEC which received no public input, scrutiny or announcement prior to construction start.
  • Staff statements that these Capital expenditures do not affect taxation rates nor are they part of any tax payer supported debt is an insult to the intelligence of all of us. Regardless of how you cut it, funds for these expenditures came out of reserves, which were funded by taxation and will have to be replenished through taxation. There is only one taxpayer, YOU, this council just doesn’t get it.  

NOTE – This list could be very extensive, but you get the point.

On the Taxation Side – Some History:

The reasons for my criticism are real not imagined!

Tax Increases –

  • 2002 to 2008   + 26%                 6 years
  • 2002 to 2011   + 40.49%           9 years
  • 2002 to 2013   + 46.29%           11 years

A compound tax increase of over 46% in 11 years!

  • How many residents had a 46% increase in pay over this period of time?
  • B.C.’s Cost of Living since 2002 was only       +17.9%              (Stats Canada / B.C.)
  • Taxation Increases – Over 3 times the cost of living!

What is it you often hear at tax time? – On average a general property tax increase is only 2.95%? Isn’t that interesting, my personal Property Taxes for a 5 acre property in North / East Langley (Senior and not farm taxes) in the ALR show the following:

  • 2011 – $2,711.08
  • 2012 – $2,810.07          + 3.6%
  • 2013 – $2,995.94         + 6.6%

On a side note, I can remember after one of my failed attempts to stop the unnecessary tax increase, I suggested to Council we have staff bring back to us the effect of the decided tax increase (using the average as calculated by staff) on each one of our (Council members) homes. This is something we did in Delta and helped to give Council, in some cases, a reality check as all of us on Council resided on different properties in different locations throughout the Township. I can remember the comment from Kim Richter that it was confidential and she wouldn’t provide it. How absurd, I rest my case!

Creative Property Tax Statements –

I don’t know how many of you will remember, it wasn’t that far back, that our Property Tax Bill used to contain one if not a couple of classifications. In other words you received a tax increase of say 4% which included all services under the General – Municipal heading. Well in the spirit of creativity we are now being provided numbers for a variety of categories of services.

In reality it is nothing more than an attempt to justify their tax increase by breaking it out by category. We are now provided with –

  • General – Municipal
  • General – Protective Services
  • Fraser Valley Regional Library
  • Parks
  • Storm Water
  • Transportation – Roads

Maybe we should ask for “General – Administration” and “General – Legal” which seems to be a popular expense with today’s Council.

I am not sure how or why I should feel more comfortable, especially knowing how inadequate our budget process and oversight is.

As I stated above, the unbelievable but true fact remains it is staff under the direction of outside forces who are the ones steering and commanding the ship. Council members over the past 12 – 15 years have been nothing more than passengers on that ship taking their marching orders from those unelected. OH don’t get me wrong, Council members get their opportunity to make themselves feel good in front of the public in public debate, Q & A during Public Hearings (we know how that listening goes don’t we) and Notices of Motion (although I see Councilor Long wants to find a way to circumvent that opportunity, why am I not surprised). The fact is the MEAT of the management of our Municipality is left to others, those unelected! It is being allowed to happen by your Mayor and Council.

As to Budgeting:

As anyone in business knows, respect for a thorough budgeting process is essential to accomplishing the desired result of fiscal accountability on behalf of taxpayers in this case or shareholders in private business. In the case of Municipal Government that process requires the thorough vetting of all departments provisional budget requests. Every single department if left to their own will and resources has an extensive WANT list. The challenge is paring that down to an affordable NEEDS list. Now there is no question that budgeting is a very difficult process, it requires the elected (Council members) to be challenging of the unelected (Staff) line by line as to their and Council priorities measured against Municipal needs and measured against value for money.

It requires the elected to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money, both in operating and capital expenditures.

I will give you one small example – There was one discovery that my Standing Committee of Finance uncovered (among many) while going through the budgeting process. When Committee members questioned a few items of significance we discovered that staff had created “Capital Projects Funded – NOT STARTED” which went beyond the most recent year we were dealing with. While investigating a number of these items we found that they were nothing more than a method to create slush funds of convenience for staff. A fundamental principle should be a review of every Capital Project approved by council that wasn’t started in that given year. Is it still needed? Why wasn’t it started? What was the business plan for it?

Another small example – At the start of our Mayor’s Standing Committee of Finance process and in discussions with the CAO, one of our committee members who was a retired CA and Senior Managing Partner from a prominent accounting firm stated he would like to see us adopt a 0 based budgeting format, to which our CAO replied, we do, it is modified 0 based budgeting. Most professionals in the business will tell you, there is no such thing – It is either O based or it is not! That was just the start of a no cooperation attitude.

In my opinion, going through the “well entrenched Township of Langley staff budgeting process of convenience” and my attempts to correct that process, it was clear that nothing was going to change. Councilors Bateman, Fox, Ward, Ferguson, Dornan, Kositsky and Long were determined that would be the case. It was very clear to me that not one of the above ever met a tax or spending increase they didn’t like. Just look up their records, it is a fact!

I would also suggest Councilor Richter’s actions through this period were less than helpful. While she likes to come across as the taxpayer’s conscience, in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. I measure people by their actions not words! So all of us are left with the status quo!!

NOTE: For a detailed description of the facts surrounding my attempt to bring fiscal accountability to the Township of Langley see langleywatchdog.com posting May 17th, 2013.

In Summary:

So the question – Why is Council such a failure in being responsible with your tax dollars? While I could provide a more graphic description of what is going on I will refer back to Rafe Mair’s Axiom for a more polite way of saying it:

“You make a very serious mistake believing that people in charge know what the hell they are doing”

Well folks, it is time for change, are we going to get on with it?

The Township of Langley has without exception one of the worst spending and taxation records within the Lower Mainland from Squamish to Hope for years! I have said it many times before, these Council members make a habit of adopting a staff budget, not a Council budget. If you don’t believe me go and compare a Provisional Budget presented by staff and compare it to the adopted budget by Council.

This long standing process of budgeting with tax increases and spending increases that are three times the cost of living and more are just not sustainable. What is more worrisome is there is no move a-foot to change these habits. The only thing that will change what is happening is a NEW Council, are you up for it? Just one year away!

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe are of significant concern to Township of Langley Residents, come back often for news of interest to Township residents.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

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