It’s not too late to talk to West Kelowna Council about new budget

Residents can still provide feedback via e-mail

Contributed

There is still time to provide input into West Kelowna Council’s 2019 to 2028 Financial Plan.

Council hosted a Feb. 20 Talk Budget open house to gather feedback but residents are still encouraged to provide comments on this year’s budget. Here’s how:

· View the Open House Presentation Panels and the 2019 to 2028 Financial Plan at www.westkelownacity.ca/budget, then email your thoughts to info@westkelownacity.ca

Council proposes a 3.88 per cent tax increase in 2019 to build reserves, keep pace with inflation and address the need to modernize infrastructure and services. If approved, a 3.88 per cent increase would add $68.78 to the annual property taxes charged to the typical West Kelowna house, valued at $550,000.

READ MORE: Chance for residents to talk with West Kelowna Council about budget

Council is also debating the implementation of a franchise fee on utility companies. West Kelowna is the only municipality in B.C. that does not have a franchise fee. Council’s deliberations have been weighing the fact that the fee would be passed onto consumers against the need to use the collected funds to build capital reserves.

Council has decided an increase is necessary because, the city must ensure that adequate funding is available to upgrade or replace existing, aging infrastructure and equipment. These costs are covered by capital and equipment reserves. The city must also keep pace with rising market costs for goods and services.

The city also receives continuous requests from residents for increased service. West Kelowna Council is adding staff in specific areas to reduce wait times, increase bylaw enforcement, add policing and improve services.

READ MORE: West Kelowna to hire eight more firefighters

In addition, eight new career firefighters will be added to West Kelowna Fire Rescue to address a critical resource shortage. Firefighters in West Kelowna work considerable amounts of overtime, double time and extended tours of duty to ensure that the community’s fire stations are staffed as per the Collective Agreement and legislated requirements. The critical staffing shortage led to one brown out (temporary closing of a fire hall for one shift) in 2018 which is a safety issue for the community.

The move will ensure that minimum staffing of the community’s fire halls will be accommodated without overtime or extended tours of duty. Westbank First Nation contributes to the costs of West Kelowna Fire Rescue.

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