Kelowna taxpayers will face an average property tax increase of 2.74 per cent this year.
Kelowna city council finalized its 2013 budget Monday, and adopted the increase after city staff nailed down new construction revenue figures for 2012.
Money from new construction is used each year by the city to offset the annual tax increase.
In 2012, the value of new construction in the city fell by 14 per cent, to $328.7 million.
The final budget increase is slightly higher than the 2.58 per cent hike council hammered out in January in the provisional budget during its day-long budget deliberations because $478,220 worth of new spending was added, including new projects such as $40,000 for five new left-turn signals on Highway 97, $37,000 for design work for a bridge over Mill Creek at Bullman Road, the same amount for a 240-metre waterfront retaining wall at Kinsmen Park, and a $7,000 contribution towards a practice batting cage for the local cricket club.
The city will also spend $65,000 from reserves to plan a new Tourism Kelowna visitor information centre building in City Park.
This year, the city will collect $103.7 million in property taxes, as well as $96.9 million for other taxing authorities, such as the regional district, the school district, the library board, regional hospital district and B.C. Assessment Authority.
The city only has control, however, over the municipal property tax portion of residents’ annual property tax bills.
Mayor Walter Gray said he was happy with this year’s budget, despite the fact it carried an average increase more than double the one per cent hike included in the 2012 municipal budget.
“I’m certainly not apologizing to taxpayers for that,” he said, noting he believes residents of his city are getting value for money and appear happy with how the city is spending their money.
He said since the provincial budget increase was announced a few months ago, he has had no negative feedback about the budget.
“I think the public are not concerned about the percentage increase as much as they are about knowing that money is being spent wisely,” he said.
“They just want value for money.”
This year, the owner of a $455,910 home in the city (the average according to B.C. Assessment) will pay an average of $1,887 in municipal property taxes and a total of $578 to other authorities for a total of $2,465 before the provincial homeowner grant is applied.
City finance department staff say while the taxes it collects for others have also gone up by an average of 1.6 per cent, the annual school tax has gone down this year by about 0.5 per cent.
In total, City Hall says the average property tax bill in the city will go up this year by about $56.60.
The budget is part of the city’s five-year financial plan, a mandatory requirement of the provincial government.
That plan has to show estimations of how much the city expects to spend in the coming five years .
While it is not specific because of unknown financial conditions, the ability to get government grants, potential partnerships and the public’s desire to pay for future projects, this year’s five-year plan shows there could be larger annual increases in future.
One reason is the city’s plan to build a large new RCMP detachment building on Clement Avenue at Richter Street within the next few years.
That building, to replace the aging one on Doyle Avenue, will cost an estimated $45 million and will be built on land the city now owns. As the detachment size has increased, the force has outgrown its current building despite the fact it has had two major expansions in the last 20 years.
This year’s city budget includes $65,000 to start planning the new detachment building.