Archive for February, 2023

So the Langley Advance headlines read – 7.29% tax hike suggested by staff, Council calling for a tax increase of 4%! As somebody who has been there, nothing has changed! Staff, for the most part create the process that will best justify their wishes, control of the process, and the result. All of this brings me back to my first budget process after my election as Mayor of the Township of Langley in November of 2008 – an eye opening experience, one that you had to see to believe! My implementation of a “Mayor’s Standing Committee of Finance” faced the focus of staff behind the scenes with undue influence and obstruction and the then Municipal Council’s public outrage to the Standing Committees creation. I had appointed the then retired managing Director of BDO Dunwoody, a just retired Federal tax auditor and a local lawyer (all volunteers) and three Council members to the committee. This committee was set up per the Mayor’s authority under the guidelines of the Community Charter. We learned a lot about the facts behind Municipal budgeting through this process and what really goes on.

Some History from my term as Mayor – The Council of the day decided, because they strongly objected to the creation of a “Mayor’s Standing Committee of Finance”, that they would NOT participate in any budget discussions and would leave it to the Standing Committee to submit a report to Council. For the record all members of Council were invited to attend the Standing Committee meetings, but to no avail. We were very open in looking at Zero based budgeting to which Mark Bakken, our CAO noted in one of our first meetings “we practice a form of Zero based budgeting”! Message to Mark Bakken at the time – there is no such thing, it is Zero based OR it is NOT.

After about 3 ½ months of long, very frequent and very involved detailed budget discussion meetings with committee members, staff, and department heads – a department by department, line by line analysis of the provisional budget proposed by staff occurred. I have been lead to believe this kind of analysis had never been undertaken before by and/or for any previous Council and you can bet it hasn’t happened since. A final report was then presented to Council.

The result – A Standing Committee of Finance Report was submitted. It was lengthy but in the final analysis, fully explained it recommended a tax increase of 1%. In a motion put forward by Councillor Bateman immediately after the committees presentation (same meeting) ignored the Standing Committee’s report, not a question asked, and moved a motion for a tax increase of 5% – which was immediately approved by council.

To today’s news on budget discussions per the Director of Finance public comments “they need to find $5 million in savings, spending reductions or increased revenue”. Or Mark Bakken’s (TOL CAO) comments “We likely have a lot more priorities or hopes than we may have resources” or “Council may have to prioritize or look for creative ways of raising revenue and reducing expenses”!

Excuse me but as that old saying goes “Bull Shit is trying to Baffle Brains”!

Have we not forgotten something here, a number of items staff never want to talk about? Our committee went line by line with every department head reviewing every category and sub-category of which there are many within a complete Municipal Budget.

Township of Langley Capital Budget There are numerous headings used by staff; just a few examples – “Capital Budget approved not funded”, “Capital budget approved and started” or “Capital Budget approved, funded, not started”! 

Just in one area we uncovered something very interesting, a category that at first glance seems insignificant probably significantly inflated from what it was back in 2009 in every department! That is in the Category – “Capital Projects approved, funded, not started”! We found that throughout the budget this category was nothing but a catch all for taxpayer funds, put another way, slush funds. This was a catch-all for a wide variety of projects over the years that had been approved by the Council of the day, those major or minor that had been delayed, forgotten about, lacked any urgency to conclude and/or those put on hold for one reason or another. Probably in some cases they were a ruse! This appeared to have been going on for years unchecked. A normal process would be if these funds were not expended and project started within a year, those funds should revert to general revenue. If you extrapolate this practice over many years you are talking a significant number of financial slush funds throughout the budget that are being protected and carried forward year after year after year.

Township of Langley Operations Budget – So Township / Municipal Staff led by their CAO seem to feel it is their rite of passage and they are above being questioned as to line items in the budget dealing with regular activities and costs. God forbid if we can achieve better results by implementing new and more productive methods to achieve the same or in many cases better results throughout our Township service model at a lower cost? Number of vehicles requested vs need? I am not suggesting that government services (public sector) can be operated the same as or with the same efficiency as the private sector (for a wide variety of reasons), however there has to be a willingness on the part of public sector management to do better and be more accountable.

As to public sector wages – by any measure they are the best by any comparison to the private sector and are a product of agreements negotiated on behalf of the Public Sector in Metro Vancouver by RES (Regional Employers Services). That’s right, public sector employees negotiating for public sector employees. Fact, the negotiators will receive the same or better increase than those they are negotiating for. After all it is only your tax dollars they are spending! Not all municipalities take advantage of these services but their negotiated settlements form a template throughout the region. A number of years ago as a Delta Alderman I served on the then Metro Vancouver labor relations Committee. The only thing that has changed is it has been expedited.

Summary: We sincerely wish our new council well in their efforts in concluding a municipal budget with a tax increase of 4% which is their publicly stated goal. The majority of this council were elected on a very well thought out plan that will start the Township on a road to delivering on the services, facilities and roads required for such a dramatically fast growing Municipality. It certainly can be done it just requires determination and focus to cut through all of the internal noise and obstruction.


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.

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