City’s spend­ing di­rec­tion draws com­men­da­tion

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Mark NIELSEN Cit­i­zen staff mnielsen@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

Prince Ge­orge’s abil­ity to de­crease spend­ing in­di­cates they may have bet­ter prac­tices in place to con­trol spend­ing growth... — Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness

A small-busi­ness ad­vo­cacy group has heaped a de­gree of praise on Prince Ge­orge in its most re­cent sur­vey of mu­nic­i­pal ef­forts to con­tain spend­ing.

In a re­port the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness is­sued Wed­nes­day – and less than six weeks be­fore the gen­eral vot­ing day for the prov­ince’s civic elec­tions – the city was sin­gled out for re­duc­ing spend­ing on a per capita ba­sis dur­ing the 2015-16 fis­cal year.

While the city’s pop­u­la­tion de­clined by 1.4 per cent, its spend­ing when ad­justed for in­fla­tion de­clined by 1.8 per cent, the CFIB found. In con­trast, Burn­aby and North Van­cou­ver in­creased spend­ing de­spite de­clines in their pop­u­la­tions.

“Prince Ge­orge’s abil­ity to de­crease spend­ing in­di­cates they may have bet­ter prac­tices in place to con­trol spend­ing growth than Burn­aby and the City of North Van­cou­ver, and should be com­mended,” the re­port’s au­thors said.

The com­ment is in marked con­trast to the as­sess­ment given to Prince Ge­orge in last year’s re­port, when the CFIB ranked Prince Ge­orge as the worst per­former among the prov­ince’s 20 largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for 2014-15. While pop­u­la­tion was recorded to have fallen by three per cent, spend­ing rose three per cent. That prompted Coun. Garth Frizzell, who chairs the city’s fi­nance and au­dit com­mit­tee, to ques­tion the CFIB’s method­ol­ogy, not­ing it was us­ing out-of-date pop­u­la­tion fig­ures.

Reached Wed­nes­day, Frizzell gave a mea­sured re­sponse to the most re­cent out­come.

“The CFIB, the way it does its anal­y­sis, leaves a lot of ques­tions – it al­ways has so I wasn’t ready so say we had an atro­cious prob­lem when they said that and I’m not ready to scream suc­cess when they say we have made all of these ad­vances this time,” he said.

“But there is good news. Maybe their sys­tem is show­ing the in­di­ca­tions of what we’ve seen – with the util­ity rates stay­ing at zero per cent for so many years and with the tax rate this time be­ing un­der the rate of in­fla­tion, plus pay­ing down all that debt over the past five years, maybe the real num­bers that we’ve got are af­fect­ing how they do their anal­y­sis and the process they use.”

The trend for 2015-16 helped im­prove Prince Ge­orge’s rank­ing among the prov­ince’s 20 largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties when spend­ing over a 10-year pe­riod, from 2006 to 2016, was taken into ac­count. The city placed 10th best, up from 16th in last year’s re­port.

How­ever, only eight out of B.C.’s 152 mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments have kept op­er­a­tional spend­ing at or below lev­els of in­fla­tion plus pop­u­la­tion growth over the decade ex­am­ined and no ma­jor mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment with more than 25,000 res­i­dents made the list.

Among B.C.’s largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, Port Co­quit­lam re­mained the top per­former, as real op­er­at­ing spend­ing per capita grew by 7.6 per cent dur­ing 2006-16.

In con­trast, Prince Ge­orge’s grew 14.6 per cent.

As well, the city’s per capita spend­ing in 2016 stood at $1,810, up by $16 from the year be­fore, or 0.9 per cent be­fore in­fla­tion is take into ac­count.

The full re­port is posted with this story at www.pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca.

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