Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s a forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Please note, that due to technical difficulties this feature was delayed a week. Apologies for any inconvenience.
Langley City councillors are being asked: What is the city doing to stay within budget given high inflation and rising interest rates?
Mayor Nathan Pachal
A. Inflation and higher interest rates impact the City’s current and future budgets.
Labour costs represent the majority of Langley City’s operating costs. Both public and private sector organizations are adjusting salaries to keep up with inflation, most well beyond the two per cent we have seen in the past.
The cost of goods and services is also increasing, including the cost of major projects.
This year, the City could balance the budget because there were staffing vacancies, and we reduced staff training. This staffing shortage is not sustainable and impacted the ability of the City to provide certain services and slowed down the delivery of others. We also must train our staff.
Council and City staff continually look for ways to save money, but we also must invest in services. We must address community safety and ensure we have services that residents and businesses can rely on. We also need to invest significantly in our water and sewer systems, roads, operations centre, recreation, art, culture and parks services. Many of these are at end-of-life or at capacity.
As a City, we must always balance our budget. I will not support service cuts or holding off on investments needed to support our residents, businesses, and community.
Council will be reviewing the 2023 budget. More information should be available in January.
Councillor Paul Albrecht
A. This councillor failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline, due to a death in the family.
Councillor Teri James
A. Inflation impacts the City’s finances in three, very significant ways.
It drives wage settlements with City employees, it increases the cost of goods and services the City purchases, and fixed rate contracts that come up for renewal are impacted – as overall price increases are a factor.
The standard response after an election cycle is that we will be “fiscally responsible to our constituents,” but the reality is that we are a small community with growing big City issues and inflation will impact the 2023 budget and beyond.
Our aging infrastructure requires constant monitoring and repair, which is also a challenge. Higher tender prices mean that project budgets need to increase, and future year projects need to be delayed or reprioritized until funds can be replenished.
It’s not all doom and gloom however,
But the question asked needs to be answered fairly.
We will bring a balanced budget and some people will be upset and not understand and some will appreciate the challenges and actually understand.
We were elected to make the tough decisions and we need to look at fiscal responsibility not just today but also into the future.
We cannot keep passing the buck.
Councillor Delaney Mack
A. As a newly elected councillor I have not had a part in the creation nor maintenance of our current 2022 budget.
It is my understanding however, to date in 2022 increased costs have been primarily offset by staffing vacancies and reduced staff training.
In situations where capital projects have settled at costs higher then initially anticipated, reserve funds have financed the project to completion.
While these actions aren’t sustainable long-term solutions, I feel they can offer insights as we work through and formalize our 2023 budget.
To that end as we have begun preliminary 2023 budget discussions, a significant percentage has already been dedicated to accurately anticipating operational increases. Increases for both our regular day-to-day operations, but also upcoming influences such as the wage settlements in both the CUPE and IAFF union contracts.
Our goal, as a team, is to create a framework where we are adequately prepared, instead of operating in response to unforeseen costs.
Undoubtedly staying within budget upcoming will require accurate price estimations from staff, and flexibility from council to make alterations where and when necessary.
Councillor Mike Solyyom
A. This councillor failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace
A. The inflation impacts are currently not known at this time because of the unknown implications of contract agreements.
Inflation also affects the increased costs of goods and services Langley City purchases, particularly fuel purchases.
Langley City council has just begun to look at the budget, and is working with staff to create the best outcomes for the City presently and for the future.
Councillor Leith White
A. The progressive number of spikes in interest rates hikes over the past several months due to inflationary pressures impacts everyone – the City is no exception.
With the cost of supplies and goods services the City pays for – some increases are obviously going to have an impact and will continue to have an impact in the coming months.
Absorbing these increases are challenging for all parties, but some of how the City has buffered these increases is with having had contracts in place that provide an element of price protection. Some challenges in the future could be with employee union contracts; having expired last year, its a fair assumption the impact of inflation will be on the table for wage negotiations.
Primarily, the City has managed the increased inflationary pressures through not replacing current staffing vacancies and making the choice to spend less where it makes sense to do so.
While the increases to interest rates and cost of goods has an impact on expenditures, the silver lining is the increases in interest received on invested reserve funds. It’s certainly not enough to eliminate the impact of inflation, but every little bit helps – as do the efforts of all staff to watch costs at every opportunity.
Next week’s Langley Township councillors are being asked: Should the Township discourage development of new single-family housing neighbourhoods?
Watch for their answers online next Sunday.