Update: Upcoming Kelowna city budget touted as a 'Rutland budget'

Kelowna city council will head into its annual budget deliberations later this week looking at a staff recommendation that could boost residential property taxes by 2.67 per cent in 2014.

On Monday, council was presented with its formal introduction to the budget, when staff made its annual public presentation prior to council's line-by-line budget deliberation set for Thursday at City Hall.

Financial services director Keith Grayston said for 2014, the city is looking to raise $107.9 million in tax, 37.4 per cent of the entire $289 million budget. The remaining money will come from fees and charges (33.1 per cent), reserves and surpluses (12 per cent), grants (4.8 per cent), other revenue (4.7 per cent),general revenues (four per cent), departmental transfers (2.2 per cent), parcel taxes (1.2 per cent), and borrowing 0.6 per cent).

It contains $735,000 worth of additions approved in the 2013 budget, including pay for more police officers added last year but who only started part way through 2013 and now need to be accounted for on an annual basis.

The proposed 2.67 per cent tax hike would add approximately $45.11 cents to the $1,734.79 in municipal taxes the owner of an average-priced home in Kelonwa ($451,440) would pay next year. Other taxes on the annual city tax bill homeowners receive, such as those for the school district, regional district and regional hospital district, would all be on top of that amount.and are not known yet, said Grayston.

The city's provisional 2014 budget will be hammered out during an all-day council session Dec. 12.

According to the city, in 2014 it will be challenged to provide new services that are in demand, while maintaining existing services levels and looking for opportunities for future growth.

Despite that, one councillor said he feels the upcoming budget will help an area of the city believed by many to have been overlooked for to long in the past.

"This is a Rutland budget," said Coun. Robert Hobson, adding he feels there is a lot for city's largest residential area in the financial plan.

Asked to clarify his remarks following Monday's council meeting, Hobson pointed to $150,000 for consultations on a Rutland town centre plan, $600,000 for the Bulman Road bridge, $400,000 to push Shepherd Road through the Centennial Park area to Rutland Road now an agreement has been reached with the association that owns the park and the Centennial Hall. As part of that agreement, the city will take over the park. As part of the deal, the money the city pays the association to push the road through  will go to upgrade the aging Rutland Centennial Hall. The city would take over the park and improve it.

"We are heading down the road of spending more in Rutland," said Hobson, a 22-year city council veteran who has said this will likely be his last term on council.

According to information released by the city Monday, Kelowna taxpayers enjoy the fourth lowest residential taxes in the province when it comes to municipalities with populations over 75,000.

“Our objective is to provide residents with the best quality of life we can afford,” said financial planning manager Genelle Davidson. “Revenue from property taxes help us build the amenities people want and provide them with the services they need.”

About three-quarters of the city revenues already come from non-tax sources, including user fees, charges, grants and reserve accounts.

In addition to prior commitments, the 2014 budget will also influenced by a number of existing city plans including:

• The 2020 Capital Plan acts which is a guide for capital infrastructure costs and ensures projects are prepared with funding sources identified over the long-term,

• The city's Official Community Plan which identifies issues and opportunities expected over the next 20 years

• The city’s 20-Year Servicing Plan and financing strategy which supports the infrastructure needs called for in the OCP

While a provisional tax rate will be arrived at by council Thursday, the actual final tax rate will be not be set until May 5 when Kelowna city council reviews final budget requests and get final information B.C. Assessment and knows its final new construction revenues, part of which are used each year to  to offset tax increase.

Last year the city hiked residential property taxes by an average of 2.74 per cent.



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