Kelowna council set provisional budget tax hike at 2.49 per cent

With little room to manoeuvre, Kelowna council wrapped up its annual budget deliberations quickly, approving a budget of "necessities."

In the end, Kelowna council made it look easy.

On Thursday, city council unanimously voted to accept a provisional budget for 2014 that will include a planned 2.49 per cent tax increase.

And the city’s mayor and councillors did it with little debate about specific items, wrapping up their scheduled day-long deliberations in just six hours.

“It’s not quite the two per cent (increase) I was looking for, but realistically, there wasn’t much that could be cut,” said Coun. Andre Blanleil known as one the most ardent fiscal conservatives on council

“I feel council has been pretty cautious when it comes to our budget. I don’t feel there is another city in Canada that gives as good a bang for the (tax) buck.”

The $289 million provisional budget will rely on a total of $107.7 million in tax revenue next year, with the rest coming from fees,charges, grants and money from city reserves.

Council headed into its annual budget deliberations with a staff recommendation of a 2.67 per cent tax increase.That figure would have added just over $45 to the average Kelowna homeowner’s tax bill. The new figure will drop that amount to $42.08, said city financial services director Keith Grayston.

Blanleil, a 20-year veteran of council, said he expects the total taxation demand will likely be reduced by the time council approves the final budget in May because the estimated new construction revenue the city uses to offset the annual tax hike always seems to be higher than anticipated. He predicted it could drop to nearer to 2.3 per cent.

Prior to the budget, the city said this year it faced challenges setting its financial plan for 2014 because expenditures were rising  and revenues were not keeping pace. But it was determined to maintain services and, where possible, spend more for new needed services, equipment and personnel while keeping the tax increase as low as possible.

Despite the fact the proposed tax increase is higher than many workers pay hikes will likely be this year, Mayor Walter Gray made not apologies, saying he believes residents of his city are more interested in the level, and value, of service they receive from the city.

“If members of the public feel they are getting fair value , then they seem generally satisfied,” said Gray, adding he was “absolutely” happy with the outcome of the budget deliberations.

While the budget contained some big ticket items when it comes to new spending, such as a total of  $8.5 million for a new Lakeshore Road bridge—a project that failed to attract a grant from the province—more than $2.6 million for road resurfacing, a $5.4 million revamp of the Queensway transit exchange, $500,000 for new sidewalks and $800,000 to buy a road right of way through the Rutland Centennial Park property which, in turn, will be used by the owners of the Rutland Centennial Park Hall to improve it, it was also lightened a little by the removal of a plan to spend $125,000 on a new McCulloch Road bridge and a saving of $100,000 of the $400,000 earmarked for upgrading the newly acquired land in Rutland Centennial Park. The savings for the park upgrade will come from money in a sports field reserve account.

The budget includes a $44 million capital program.

Council also added a few small items, including 30,000 for lights on the newly revamped Bernard Avenue that will be lit all-year round, not just at Christmas.

The city expects the new lights to be installed next summer and has already been told the Downtown Kelonwa Association will consider contributing as much as 30 per cent of the $55,000 total cost.

The city is also adding three more police officers this year, part of a multi-year plan to add more officers following the recommendations of a consultant in 2010 who said as many as 20 more officers are needed to police the city properly.

Last year, the city added 11 more officers and this year it added three more.

“I feel really happy with the way it went,” said Coun. Maxine DeHart of the budget deliberations.

DeHart, who is in the middle of her first term on council, said heading into the deliberations she had set her mind set on no more than a 2.5 per cent tax increase.

Council scrapped the McCulloch Road bridge in order to include money for transit service operations that will include service for Okanagan College students and still scrape in just under the 2.5 per cent increase mark.

Currently there is a push to have students approve a UPass transit pass system, similar to on already in use atUBC Okanagan and several council, including Gail Given, argued that if the city is going to invest as heavily as it has in transit upgrades across the city, it should not pass up an opportunity to get more riders on local buses.

Gray said this year, his council’s job was made much easier by the standing order given to department manager to only include funding requests for projects, services and personnel deemed absolutely necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
Injured mountain biker rescued in West Kelowna

The mountain biker reportedly has a hip injury about 1 km up the Smith Creek Road trail

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Gord with a mom and her young son outside Pathways which was defunded on May 31. (Facebook)
Gord Portman with a mom and her child outside of Pathways. The sign says it all about the difference Pathways has made in people’s lives. They were defunded by Interior Health on May 31.
Penticton man takes the plunge for the recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

Most Read