Money out: Running the city

Did you know?

The vast majority of the annual budget is spent delivering our existing core services that meet the daily needs of Vancouver residents and businesses — things like libraries; policing; fire and rescue services; utilities, including water and sewer; facilities such as recreation centres; and other city infrastructure.

The rest is used for new investments that allow us more flexibility to address timely or emergency items that need more money and attention now, including making advancements in the areas that City Council has identified as important.

Vancouver, like other major international cities, offers a broad range of services with a limited revenue stream. We adhere to prudent fiscal stewardship with careful financial planning that balances short-term operating needs with long-term public amenity and infrastructure requirements.

Each year, we create a combined annual budget and 5-year financial plan, which is made up of operating and capital budgets, department service plans, and more. Our budgeting process is also guided by longer-term plans that help us to use tax dollars responsibly.

What is the operating budget?

The operating budget sets the spending targets for the ongoing costs to take care of the city. It includes paying for fire and rescue services, roads and planning, engineering and utilities, community-focused services, and corporate support. 

What is the capital budget?

The capital budget strikes a strategic balance among our needs to:

  • Maintain critical infrastructure and amenities in a state of good repair
  • Optimize the network of infrastructure and amenities to address equity, support growth, and economic development
  • Advance Council, Board, and community priorities in a financially sustainable and resilient way

Capital projects and programs are laid out in our 4-year 2023-2026 Capital Plan, but are financed each year through the annual capital budget.

Tax and utility
Capital Expenditures Chart

Fiscal responsibility

By legislation, we cannot run a deficit or borrow to fund our operating budget. When developing our long-term financial plan, we maintain a commitment to strong financial discipline and continued management of debt to ensure that capital investments will not unduly burden the operating budget through debt servicing, operating costs, and asset lifecycle costs.

Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s credit rating agencies have acknowledged our efforts by awarding us with the highest credit rating of Aaa and AAA. Learn more about our credit ratings

Vancouver also received the top ranking among Canadian municipalities of A- in the C.D. Howe Institute's 2022 municipal fiscal accountability report card (848 KB).