Thursday, June 17, 2021
June 17, 2021

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Vancouver enjoying ‘better than expected revenues’

Chief financial officer says collections nearly $9M higher than anticipated

By , Columbian staff writer

An update to Vancouver’s current financial outlook paints an unexpectedly sunny picture for the city, as councilors review a $107.9 million draft supplemental budget.

According to Natasha Ramras, Vancouver’s chief financial officer, the city is enjoying “better than expected revenues.”

Collections from property taxes, sales taxes and other sources are $8.9 million higher than previously anticipated, Ramras told the Vancouver City Council in a workshop on Monday.

“The city acted conservatively when the (COVID-19) pandemic hit to ensure stability when we were unsure how revenues would come in as businesses and residents were impacted by the economic downturn,” Ramras said. “We can now make the appropriate adjustments to ensure that capital projects, hiring needs and other administrative priorities move forward.”

The city adopted its 2021-22 biennial budget in November. Adopting a supplemental budget is a typical midyear adjustment, ensuring that predictions on spending and revenue align more closely with reality.

That biennial budget totaled $1.26 billion; the latest adjustment would amount to an 8.6 percent increase.

In the draft document, Ramras proposes allocating and reorganizing $50.7 million in the operating budget and $57.2 million in money for capital projects and funding transfers.

On the operating side, the document suggests adding $8.9 million to Vancouver’s general fund. Twenty full-time positions — eliminated at the start of the pandemic — would be reinstated, and four more would be added to the City Hall roster.

The supplemental budget would additionally set aside $3.5 million to build out the street infrastructure surrounding Section 30, an undeveloped industrial region in east Vancouver selected by HP Inc. for its next local headquarters.

The largest chunk of adjusted operating funds — $17.4 million — would go toward bond refinancing.

On the capital side, the budget proposes $12.2 million for water and wastewater improvements, including $2.2 million in improvements to the transmission main from Water Station 5 to Water Station 9 and $2 million for the reservoirs at Water Station 1.

Ramras’ recommendation also allocates $8.5 million for the new Vancouver Police Department headquarters at 521 Chkalov Drive, $4 million for new park land acquisition and $2.6 million for park improvements.

The city council is scheduled to adopt the supplemental budget at its June 21 meeting, following a public hearing.

As far as Vancouver’s financial outlook goes, the supplemental budget isn’t the first round of good news.

The city council also began discussions this week on how best to spend its $32.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. The onetime sum of federal money comes with few restrictions on how it can be allocated, leaving spending decisions up to the discretion of local leaders.

The supplemental budget doesn’t include any American Rescue Plan Act funds. Vancouver has until the end of 2024 to decide how to spend them.