The City of Kelowna tax rate has been reduced from provisional budget projection of 3.6 per cent back in December to a finalized 2.99 per cent for 2018.
The lower tax rate will mean the owner of a single-family home with an average assessed value of $641,760 will pay $1,990 for the municipal portion of their property taxes, about 57 per cent of the total tax bill with the school tax assessment the next biggest single taxation chunk at 29 per cent.
The BC Assessment Authority has also defined the average assessment increase this year at 15.38 per cent.
“It’s not uncommon for there to be a change from provisional to final budget,” said City of Kelowna financial planning manager George King.
King said the tax reduction is a result of debt interest rate resets and increased revenue from the FortisBC Gas Franchise fee and city investments.
The reduction has been partially offset by nine additional items council approved on Monday.
Generating the most discussion from councillors among those nine items were the addition of four bylaw officers to address downtown bylaw infraction issues, three financial analyists and a $425,000 capital expenditure on phase 3 of the Rutland Centennial Park upgrade to expand the playground, infrastructure and irrigation for the park.
Coun. Charlie Hodge had concerns about the bylaw officer staffed Community Response Unit potentially being confronted with situations better handled by police.
“I personally feel a majority of the scenarios occurring in the downtown area this unit would help address come from the criminal side of situations and I’m not sure I feel comfortable of bylaw officers being placed in this situations,” Hodge said.
Coun. Gail Given, who sits on the city budget audit committee, noted the CRU staff would work in conjunction with Kelowna RCMP and not be expected to insert themselves in a harm’s way of any criminal activity.
“Working closely with the police, it’s getting the best value for our money,” said Given of the Community Response Unit initiative.
Mayor Colin Basran cautioned the public not think the program is an effort to move social and homelessness issues facing the downtown core to another part of the city.
“This is one aspect of a multi-faceted approach to help address an emergency need in our community,” Basran said. “We know that enforcement alone is not the answer, that providing affordable housing is the biggest need. Not everyone in need is homeless. Some people just down on their luck or one turn away from becoming homeless, others are committing street crimes that are causing us lots of problems.”
Hodge questioned the hiring of three financial analyists, chartered accountants each at more than $100,000 a year, when the city manager’s position has yet to be filled.
Genelle Davidson, City of Kelowna divisional director, financial services, said the hirings were the result of an outside consultant’s review of the financial services governance model currently in place.
“Because of the large volume of activity flowing through certain city departments, the recommendation of the consultant was to hire the certified CAs in the financial analyst roles immediately,” Davidson said, noting the benefits provided of professional oversight and scrutiny of spending decisions, and financial stewardship.
The positions would be under the airport, active living and culture and civic operations departments.
“Adding these people to the largest departments of high dollar transactions will be a benefit to efficiency and effectiveness to the city,” added Given. “We had an analyist put in place with fire services last year and have already seen some strong benefits.”
Kelowna taxpayers will receive their property tax notices in late May.
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