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 five-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.
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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.
Understanding our 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.
The capital budget strikes a strategic balance among our needs to:
- Maintain facilities and infrastructure in an appropriate state of repair
- Optimize networks of amenities to best serve residents, businesses, and people who visit and work here
- Advance Council and our priorities within our long-term financial capacity
Note Capital projects are laid out in our four-year 2019-2022 Capital Plan, but are financed each year through the annual capital budget.
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.
The City of Vancouver also received an A+ rating from the CD. Howe Instituted in its 2018 municipal fiscal accountability report card External website, opens in new tab. Vancouver was the top-rated municipality for 2018.