Kelowna city councillors expressed frustration at financial responsibilities that forced them to peg the tax increase at 2.47 per cent, up from the 2.05 they’d initially struggled to maintain.
“This year we tried to keep the tax increase to two per cent,” said Coun. Luke Stack. “Quite a bit of belt-tightening had to be done to do that.”
Now, he said, looking at a list of fixed expenses and projections for years to come, it looks like before council even starts (next year’s) process that there would be a 3.1 per cent increase as the starting point.
“This has been a bit of a shock,” added Mayor Sharon Shepherd. “This is the first time I remember a final budget that went so different to what we worked to maintain.”
Initially, continued Shepherd, she was of the understanding that the $200,000-plus dollars needed to replace copper wiring that had been stolen from lampposts was the budget-boosting culprit.
But it turned out that was covered off elsewhere so the hike was merely a matter of dwindling incomes from a weak new construction market and new pressures on their coffers.
And raising taxes, contended city staff, is the only way forward.
“In these tight economic times, staff are focused on core services and utilizing current resources as effectively as possible,” a report from city manager Ron Mattiussi indicated.
When all is said and done, the 2.47 per cent hike will result in an additional cost of $39 for the owner of an average $484,000 single-family Kelowna home. Offsetting that rate, however, is a decrease in the school tax rate and an increase in the annual homeowner grant.