Friday, November 06, 2009

When it comes to spending, few can top the City of Prince Rupert

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has just completed their annual crunching of the numbers and when it comes to spending public dollars, the City of Prince Rupert is sitting high on the list.

On a per capita basis, the City of Prince Rupert spends more than most communities across the province, the CFIB defines per capita spending as the amount spent per person on operating expenditures, such items and service as administration, police, transportation, parks, and such. It does not include spending on capital

Prince Rupert which once upon a time held a place in the cities below 25,000 category, has long since migrated downwards over the last ten years, the City's spending ways now clocked in as part of the under 15,000 population listings.

With a recorded population of 13,435, Rupert's per capita spending was listed as $1,846 holding down fourth spot overall in the under 15,000 sector trailing only Nelson at $2,307, Dawson Creek at $2,019 and Whistler which spends $5,442, a cost that is skewered due to its status as a "resort community", because of that designation the CFIB did not use their numbers in determining averages, which in effect moves Prince Rupert into third place overall in its category.

Among the Northern BC Communities, both large and small, Rupert is behind only Dawson Creek when it comes to per capita spending, just behind Rupert's numbers is Kitimat which had spending of $1,831, Prince George is well down the list of Northern BC communities at $1,142 (a number that still is making for a lively topic as can be found here and here ) and Terrace which counts its pennies the best at $1,104 per 1,000 residents.

One key aspect of the CFIB study is the Fiscal Sustainability Gap report, but you won't find the numbers for Rupert in that study, due to the decline in population between 2000 and 2007 which offset the increase in inflation, Rupert's operating spending growth was -19 percent and the population and inflation growth was -1.7 per cent. Because of those negative factors, Prince Rupert’s Fiscal Sustainability Gap could not be properly defined in the CFIB study, leaving Rupert out of the grouping of municipalities in that category.
The study however has provided some other interesting statistics and observations for Prince Rupert residents. When it comes to public employment Prince Rupert is high on the list of permanent employment status, with 15 permanent civic employees per 1,000 residents, only Whistler with the rather amazing number of 46 per 1,000 residents and West Vancouver at 29 per 1,000 residents have more employees on the public payroll.

Both of those communities are significantly wealthier than Rupert and more than likely can better handle the added requirements from the taxpayers. Further statistical figures outline that when you account for all public employees full and part time, the ratio changes to 19 per 1,000 residents for Rupert.

The numbers reflect a different attitude towards service delivery and staffing requirements when compared to other communities in the province such as Chilliwack which has but 3 employees per 1,000 residents, Abbotsford and Delta who count five employees per 1,000 residents and Kelowna that carries on its civic responsibilities with 7 employees per 1,000 residents.

Many of the CFIB findings will not come as surprise to tax weary Rupertites, who have been tapped for more cash many times over the last ten years, providing the main supply of financial backing for the city's spending plans, all while the city's industrial and commercial base continued to shrink.

In their recommendation conclusions, the CFIB offered up some helpful suggestions on how to get a better handle on municipal spending and accountability, among their thoughts:

The Provincial Government should create a provincially funded Municipal Auditor General to undergo value-for-money audits.

They also suggest that Municipal Governments provide some of the following options:

Introduce taxation and expenditure limitation laws to constrain the growth in government operating spending to no more than population and inflation growth.

Introduce zero-based budgeting with meaningful performance targets.

Focus on core municipal services.

Restrict full-time-equivalent employment and wage growth by limiting the growth in employees to the growth in population.

Ensure that capital projects are fully financed up front by including lifetime operating and maintenance expenses in the initial cost estimates.

Provide for more transparency and better checks and balances on municipal spending.

Restore the municipal election vote for businesses

You can look over all of the details in the Reports from the CFIB website, which provides a comprehensive review of the financial picture of British Columbia's municipalities.

The full review of the financial trends can be found here.

While a background piece relevant to those communities between 7500 and 15000 in population can be examined here.

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