On Monday, the Vancouver City Council approved the first reading of its proposed $1.7 billion 2023-2024 biennial budget — a 17 percent increase over the current year’s budget.
A nearly 700-page document outlines the recommended budget for the city of Vancouver’s operating and capital spending, which ranges from hiring more full-time staff to reducing its carbon footprint to making infrastructure improvements.
The city council will vote to approve City Manager Eric Holmes’ proposed budget Nov. 21 following a public hearing. Those interested in testifying in-person or remotely must register by noon that day. Vancouver City Council meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Public input ranging from surveys to direct engagement with community groups was used to create the budget. Board members and commissions, as well as Vancouver’s Social Vulnerability Index, helped shape the budget for capital and program investments.
It recommends allocating $1.4 billion toward operating expenses, about $669 million of which will be allocated toward general, street and fire costs.
Several assumed revenue increases were included in the proposal, such as the voter-approved Proposition 2, which will increase property taxes 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation. Water, sewer, utility, transportation and park rate increases were also considered.
The budget would increase staffing — about 110 new, full-time equivalent positions — for multiple services, including public safety, development and support services.
Notably, it allots funding to support multiple new positions in the short-staffed Vancouver Police Department and more than 40 in the Vancouver Fire Department, the latter being supported by the city’s successful Proposition 2 initiative.
There would be funding to pay for two new Safe Stay Communities and one Safe Park site within Vancouver city limits, according to a staff report. It also includes an additional outreach coordinator position to work with Vancouver’s homeless population.
Vancouver’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 is addressed in the proposed budget, with funding being set aside to add solar panels and LED lights in city buildings. Electric charging stations and an electric, hybrid or alternate fuel fleet is also incorporated in the plan.
About $27.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds would be divvied up to support the city’s various projects along the Fourth Plain corridor, including $2.5 million which would be directed to the mixed-use Fourth Plain Commons project.
The budget includes $1 million to conduct a disparity study, anticipated in mid-2023, which would develop a tool meant to increase diversity in future construction bidders. This program would improve the success rate for minority businesses and increase participation in bidding endeavors.
Holmes’ recommended budget dedicates about $277 million for capital projects. The city of Vancouver has an excess of $2 billion in capital assets, such as buildings, streets and utility lines, and it does not anticipate adding debt to manage the assets, according to the staff report.
About $52.6 million would fund general projects. Among them, $20 million would fund a remodel for the Chkalov police headquarters, and $3.9 million would aid in Fire Station 4, 6 and 8 replacements and remodels.
Several millions would fund utility projects, transportation, road and sidewalk upgrades, traffic management and a variety of other projects.