Gray and Shepherd say service demands raised city budgets

A report showing municipal spending between 2000 and 2009 is among the highest in B.C., is a good warning.

The man and woman who have led Kelowna for the last 10 years say a report showing municipal spending here between 2000 and 2009 is among the highest in B.C., is a good warning, but it does not show the entire picture.

Incumbent mayor Sharon Shepherd, elected in 2005, and former mayor Walter Gray, who held office from 1996 to 2005, both say the report does not include all the factors that account for the growth in operational spending by the city over the last decade.

“There are many things we do not have control over,” said Shepherd, citing the rising cost of supplies and downloading from senior levels of government.

She added as the population expands—by 22 per cent in Kelowna over the time span covered in the report—there were more demands for services by the public.

And while he and Shepherd are locked in a battle for the mayor’s chair in the current civic election campaign, Gray agreed with his opponent.

But Gray said he is concerned by the rate that spending by the municipality is rising.

The report, by the Canadian Federal of Independent Business, places Kelowna 54th highest overall for operational spending growth among the province’s 153 municipalities. Among municipalities with a population of more than 75,000 people, Kelowna ranks fourth highest.

But Shepherd said repeated city survey’s have shown the public is happy with the level of service offered here and tax rates are in the middle of the pack for residential taxpayers, while business taxes sit at the bottom.

Both Gray and Shepherd said while the aim is to keep taxes as low as possible, neither was aware of any mass discontentment with the level of service residents received during their respective mayoral terms.

“Our job is to provide a level of service to the public and that they are happy with that level of service,” said Shepherd.