BREAKING NEWS: CFIB Municipal Spending Watch 2016 rates The Township of Langley…. “THE WORST” performing major Municipal Government in B.C.!

Posted: January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Congratulations to Mayor Jack Froese and Council; You are the WORST performing major municipal government in the Province of B.C., sadly quite an achievement!!!

To the taxpayers of the Township of Langley – “DO YOU CARE?” Ignoring what is happening is not a solution as it is costing you dearly! GET INVOLVED TO CHANGE YOUR COMMUNITIES FUTURE, POLITICS IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT!

The best descriptive I could use to describe the dilemma facing the taxpayers in the Township of Langley 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!

In a just released independent research document by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business “B.C. Municipal Spending Watch 2016 (9th edition: Trends in Operating Spending, 2004 – 2014 determine that);

  • The Township of Langley ranks 20th out of 20 of major (over 25,000 population) municipal governments in British Columbia between 2004 and 2014. YES that is correct, LAST PLACE!
  • Put another way, what is worse (if that is possible) in the overall provincial rank, the Township of Langley ranks 112 out of 152 of ALL communities, municipalities and/or cities in the province of B.C.. The City of Langley after all is 48th! FYI – Maple Ridge is #1 (The best performing) among major Municipal Governments.)

Key Findings:

  • Only 5 out of the 152 municipalities (3 per cent) examined in BC kept operating spending in line with inflation and population growth over the past decade. None of the 20 largest municipalities made the list.
  • BC’s population grew by 12 per cent from 2004 to 2014. Over the same period, operating expenditures adjusted for inflation ballooned by 48 per cent – four times faster than population growth.
  • In BC, the excess spending above population growth and inflation over the past ten years represents $8.6 billion dollars. This means a BC family of four could have saved on average $7,445 in municipal taxes had municipalities kept their spending on a more sustainable path.
  • In 2004, BC residents spent on average $889 dollars for the operations of their local government (total municipal operating spending divided by total BC population). In 2014, that dollar amount increased to $1,178 per person when adjusted to inflation, representing a 33 per cent increase in operating spending per capita in BC.
  • BC’s major centres, Vancouver and Victoria, both increased their operating spending by 23 per cent from 2004 – 2014 after adjusting for inflation and population growth.

By those same parameters the Township of Langley increased their operating spending by 68.4% during that 10 year period after adjusting for inflation and population growth! 3 times greater than Vancouver and Victoria!

Where is the Langley Times, Aldergrove Star and Langley Advance in reporting this meaningful information to their readers, you the taxpayer? Are they afraid of the repercussions? All three papers are owned by THE SAME COMPANY “Black Press”, an absolute embarrassment! Are you aware they split revenue from the Township of over $200,000 per year?

A little history is needed – What we are seeing now is a product of staff control and Council fiduciary irresponsibility going back to the 2002 – 2008 period, one of the key reasons I ran for Mayor and won in 2008. What was happening back then?

  • Council had voted for a Compound Property Tax Increases since 2005 – (6 yrs) +33.6% – Compound Cost of Living (CPI) of +9.3% throughout this 6 year period.
  • Voted against the recommendations of the Mayor’s Standing Committee of Finance which included a need to look at department efficiencies in 2009 and a recommendation of a .93% tax increase. Immediately moved a motion to approve a 5% tax increase / passed.
  • During a 6 year period the majority of Council never voted against 1) any wage increase (Metro or Township), 2) an increase in staff numbers as requested by staff 3) a change in Council remuneration formula or 4) a Conversion of Fire Halls to full time.
  • The majority of Council supported the purchase of Redwoods Golf Course by Township of Langley –  no public referendum – Significant Public Cost tied to a very questionable contract with previous owner who has a comfortable management contract for 20 years and another 10 at their option. Township taxpayers continue to pay.
  • Supported purchase of Bedford House Restaurant by Township of Langley –  no public referendum – Significant Public Cost of close to $1 million over assessed value.
  • Supported the sale of public land (Questionable advertising of non ALR Dixon Pit property) to close friends of some in the Township of Langley for pennies on the dollar. Sold for $2 million when market value of 40 acres developed just as hobby farms was estimated to be $12 – $14 million.
  • Building of Langley Event Center (LEC) for a cost of $66.2 million with the following –
    • Awarded contract to the Langley Development Group (LDG) without a contractual agreement providing a clear understanding of the services they were paying for or what LDG was to provide.
    • No P3 partnership (To reduce Township taxpayer risk) This was promised and advertised in numerous press releases by the BC Gov’t and Township of Langley to the citizens of Langley. This was a LIE!
    • Supported 3 Council resolutions to permit staff to negotiate and conclude all contracts between the Township of Langley and the LDG. Council abdicated their fiduciary responsibility to staff from who should be responsible, that of Council.
    • Unwilling to review LEC agreements when no P3 agreement was uncovered, December 2008
    • No Business Plan
    • No public referendum
    • Despite no contractual agreement to do so, paid the Langley Development Group $8.83 million to go away. Settlement should not have been any more than $2 million max.
    • In an answer to the media: What did the taxpayers receive for $8.83 million? Jordan Bateman’s answer – Ownership of the LEC! Message to Jordan and the citizens of the Township of Langley, the Township always owned the LEC!
    • The Langley Development Group (LDG) who was awarded the contract under a less than open and public process had a principle partner, one Maury Keith (Jim Bond was the other partner with Keith whose construction company was awarded the building contract).

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 additional facts that should be clear when talking about Township 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 the balancing budget problem for municipal politicians and the bureaucracy in a heartbeat – they have learned that art form very well. It does nothing to stop their thirst for your tax dollars.
  • Capital Spending – A $7.5 million expansion to the LEC which received no public input, scrutiny or announcement prior to construction start. Public process in awarding this contract was non-existent! $7.5 million of your tax dollars on a whim!
  • 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 and more importantly they refuse to challenge staff on proposed expenditures!

On the Taxation Side – Tax and Spending History:

The reasons for my criticism are real based on FACT, not imagination!

Tax Increases –

  • 2002 to 2008 + 26%              6 years
  • 2002 to 2011 + 40.49%         9 years
  • 2002 to 2014 + 49.08%         12 years

A compound tax increase of over 49% in 12 years!

  • How many residents had a 49% increase in pay over this period of time?
  • C.’s Cost of Living since 2002 – 2014 was only +19.9%            (Stats Canada / B.C.)
  • Taxation Increases – Close to 2 1/2 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%? This is all slight of hand BS!

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 (Fire and Police, I guess it could also include by-laws?)
  • Fraser Valley Regional Library
  • Parks
  • Storm Water
  • Transportation – Roads

Maybe we should ask for “General – Administration” and “General – Legal” and “General Staff / Council Expenses” 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 survival. In the case of Municipal Government that process requires RESPECT for your tax dollars through a 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. Again, it is all about RESPECT for your tax dollars. This Council by their actions has NO RESPECT for your tax dollars nor any respect for democracy.

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 of creating a variety of slush funds of convenience for staff. There are numerous such slush funds spread throughout the budget.

A fundamental principle should be to review 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 format. 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!!

In Summary:

The Township of Langley has without exception one of the worst spending and taxation records within British Columbia! 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 in some cases, 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 which can bring about change in senior administration, are you up for it? Just two years away!

Am I surprised by this report NO! I warned residents of what was going on going back to 2007 and through the 2008 election to the end of my term in 2011. This is a shocking report and should serve as an alarm bell to taxpayers. The Township of Langley is a Municipal Government out of control with NO checks and balances, by staff or more important by your Council. Budget reviews are a joke and an insult to the intelligence of you the taxpayer. There is NO true budget review. As I stated earlier, a statement that I used in a public budget meeting when Council were determined to pass the staff Provisional Budget was “If Council adopts this budget you are adopting a STAFF budget NOT a Council Budget”. I received flak by members of Council for that statement but IT WAS TRUE! That statement is as true today as it was back in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Now we have this CFIB research supporting and proving that FACT.

There are an endless number of irresponsible decisions being made by this Council. To bring effective change you need a Mayor with a vision for good responsible government and ability to lead and a Council who can think for themselves and not just fill a chair to do others bidding.

Change will only happen if we can unite taxpayers from every community to bring dramatic change to this fiscally and morally irresponsible municipal government. I challenge all of those over the past number of years that got involved because of a parochial (self-serving) interest. It is beyond me how, knowing the truth about what is going on, taxpayers can sit back and dismiss so much wrong doing, what many would call corruption! Trust me, none of this stuff happens by accident!!

If you have any questions with respect to the accuracy of the content or about issues raised please contact me directly at any time. Contact information is available through www.langleywatchdog.com

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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Comments
  1. George says:

    Don’t forget the ever-spiralling cost of the unnecessary undergrounding of the utility wiring in downtown Fort Langley that will hit the taxpayers even more than the original $1,000,000. It’s still not completed. I bet the taxpayers in the Township are going to love paying for that with their increased property taxes. Why exactly was this done again?

    Musing: I’ve often wondered what Jordan Bateman thinks of that project funded so heavily by taxpayer money or why it never seems to make his list of issues.

  2. rickmanuel says:

    Really good stuff Rick. Absolutely amazing how much this Council gets away with. I think a lot of the people within the township are aware of these discrepancies but unfortunately don’t have the energy or the time or the money to do anything about it. They need a leader to guide them to the polls unfortunately, we’ve all seen too much money or too much influence in the opposite direction to get any advances as far as changing counsel goes. Even if you do get on Council it’s one person versus “them” so a whole slate needs to be nominated I think to make a difference. Or move….

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