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West Kelowna residents face 2.95% tax hike

If West Kelowna council stays on its current path, residents will face a 2.95 per cent tax increase for the second year in a row.

Councillors gave first reading to the district's 2014 Financial Plan Tuesday.

The proposed tax hike is tied for the third highest in the district's six-year history.

The tax increase will generate an additional $714,969 of revenue, while growth of 1.25 per cent will add $302,953.

West Kelowna RCMP's budget is up 3.07 per cent this year due to estimated contractual increases; West Kelowna Fire Rescue's budget increased by 3.39 per cent due to contractual wage increases and an increase in the administration overhead.

Council also agreed to spend an extra $22,205 to train the district's firefighters in several "non-core" services, such as: Confined space rescue, ice rescue, road rescue, swift water rescue, high angle rescue and low angle rescue.

The expenditure will likely result in improved response because those rescue services were previously provided regionally.

Other notable operating budget increases include: A 6.34 per cent increase for bylaw enforcement, a 3.68 per cent increase for parks summer staff and a 6.84 per cent increase for the museum budget.

West Kelowna's share of the 2014 transit cost for the district is more than $2.75 million; by 2023 it's projected to be nearly $3.3 million.

Coun. Duane Ophus suggested council may need to rethink its transportation spending priorities in the future.

"The cold hard reality, according to BC Transit numbers…transit accounts for one per cent of all trips made by residents of West Kelowna," said Ophus, who referenced information from BC Transit's presentation to council Nov. 12, 2013.

"Transit sucks up—out of the total transportation budget, if you look at the cost of roads and the cost of transit—23 per cent of our dollars. The other 77 per cent goes into roads," said Ophus.

"I realize how important transit is to a whole lot of people in West Kelowna…we just have to be really careful about where we go with this service."

Ophus added the district's projected library costs over the next 10 years are too high. This year the district will pay about $1.3 million as part of its library grant. In ten years that cost could be nearly $1.6 million.

"Library costs are expected to increase by 31 per cent over the next 10 years—they can not.

"We are under continuous pressure from our constituents to provide more services. In order to provide more services, the existing ones that you provide, as they're spread over a bigger tax base, have to cost less, not more."

Council opted to drop a $68,000 capital request for beach access improvements.

A total of $4,917 in unallocated funds will be transferred to Reserves for Future Expenditures.

A public open house for the draft budget will take place at Westbank Library Wednesday, Feb. 12, from 4 to 8 p.m. Refreshments will be provided and residents will have an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns with the proposed financial plan.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

 

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