What impact will the 1% tax shift from business to residential have on the Park Board’s operating budget for 2011.

This is the fourth year of city council’s policy of transferring 1% or $5 million of business taxes over to residences. This multiplies residential taxes over and above the prescribed annual tax increase approved by the City of Vancouver. As a result of this, city council has capped the property tax increasing at less than is required to maintain services at Park Board.

Between 1996-2008 Park Board received cumulative operating budget reductions totalling $3 million. The Board found ways to bring in new revenues and reduce operating costs. As an example, in 2003 the majority COPE board created a fundraiser position which has proven to be a good business decision. In 2009, 2010 and the anticipated 2011 budget reduction, PB will have received a total of $5.53M in reductions, which is 5.4% of our operating budget. Cuts are too big in too short a period of time, leaving Park Board scrambling. We are still recovering from the 2009 cuts, leaving little time to create alternative funding solutions.

As I see it, the result of these cuts will see maintenance and operations of parks, our public facilities and attractions carved back to essential levels. People have already experienced reductions in programs offered in our parks and a certain scruffiness to green spaces. User fees for children and youth have increased.

Our 24 community centres will not be closed, however I see our partner facilities and operations facing possible shutdown. Already we’ve experienced the threatened closure of Bloedel which has been rescuscitated only as a result of volunteers coming together to form a board that is seeking to increase revenues. Another partner operation that didn’t survive dismantling is the Children’s Farmyard which will be closed in january 2011.

PB has many facility and program partners which provide niche services to seniors, children, environmental, sport, horticultural and tourist interests to name a few. If these yearly budget cuts persist then we will see any services or facilities that are subsidized by the Park Board come up for review to either find alternative funding solutions or face closure. The concept of core services will take on a whole new meaning when we see some of our facilities and programs reduced or eliminated. It’s like peeling the skin off an apple, then paring it down to it’s core, and being left with only the seeds.

For 2011, commissioners were tasked with deciding which operating cuts would be the least detrimental to the well being of our residents. It’s been a laborious and tense process. At the Park Board’s Jan.17 board meeting I will not be supporting this budget reduction.

COPE Commissioner Loretta Woodcock

Loretta Woodcock says Park Board's Operating Budget Slashed by City Council