Kelowna city council approved its 2018 budget Thursday.—Image: Capital News file

Kelowna council settles on 3.6 per cent tax increase for 2018

“Safety” budget heavy on a wide-range of public safety related spending

Kelowna city council has approved its provisional 2018 budget with a municipal tax increase of 3.6 per cent.

The increase, just a fraction higher than the 3.59 per cent proposed when council started its day-long deliberations Thursday morning, reflected a spending plan that changed little during course of the day as councillors went through it item by item.

“A lot of the expenses were in relation to public safety,” said Mayor Colin Basran following the provisional budget’s approval.

And that was not lost on several of his councillors, including Coun. Tracey Gray who dubbed the financial plan a “safety” budget.

The budget calls for, among other things, the hiring 12 more firefighters, buying a new fire truck at a cost of nearly $1 million, upgrading the current unmanned Glenmore fire hall to make it a full-time fire station, hiring four more officers and five civilian support workers for the RCMP, paying for round-the-clock monitoring of public safety surveillance cameras downtown, installing traffic calming measures around the city to slow traffic and a host of other public safety-oriented expenditures. It also includes mandated pay hikes for both the RCMP and firefighters.

Throughout the day, council varied little from the budget they were originally presented with by city staff.

Basran said it was clear city manger Ron Mattiussi and his staff had done “the heavy lifting” beforehand, as they was basically nothing for council to cut out of the budget. But there was plenty that could have been added if council wanted a bigger tax increase.

Both he and Mattiussi said this year, many of the priority 2 items—requests listed for council’s consideration but not actually part of the budget—would have been included as actual budget items in previous years. But not this year.

Mattiussi said one reason for that was because it was known going in that the Glenmore fire hall-related requests alone made up 1.5 per cent of the 3.59 per cent proposed increase for 2018. When wage increases were factored in, that jumped to two per cent. That meant there was little room for extras.

Still, councillors expressed happiness with the budget, feeling the right balance was struck between providing what the city needs to maintain services, cover growth and add where required, and what it can afford.

“I think we struck a balance today,” said Coun. Luke Stack, a veteran of 10 city budgets.

“Staff only asked for what they really need,” added Coun. Maxine DeHart. “Mostly what was added was pretty nominal.”

There were some big ticket items however, but they tended to be there to either address the city’s growth or protect existing infrastructure, such as $4.4 million to repave roads, $3.5 million for active transportation projects, $1.5 million for new sidewalks and another $1.5 million for cycle paths.

In the end, council added just three items to the $134 million budget, including a new lighting technician at the Kelowna Community Theatre ($49,780), the traffic calming measures in Rutland ($39,000) and 24-hour monitoring of pubic surveillance security cameras downtown ($30,000).

But even then a way was found to offset the additional costs by taking $100,000 from the public building reserve in order to keep the proposed increase virtually the same as it was when the process started.

For Mattiussi, the budget was his last, as he has announced he plans to retire next year after 22 years with the city, 13 as city manager.

Unlike last year, when he choked up speaking about the fact that the 2017 budget may be his last budget, this year he laughed.

“It’s all over but the crying,” he quipped

And then he told council about a hand-written letter he received from a local woman who donated $20 to the city as her way of helping it pay for what it needs.

“It’s probably the best letter I ever received doing this job, said Matttiussi.

During the budget , it was noted in the annual city citizen’s survey, the city regularly gets top marks for the value it provides in return for the taxes it receives from residents.

Basran said he is proud of the fact Kelowna has the fifth lowest tax rate of the 16 cities in B.C. with populations over 75,000.

One outstanding issue from the 2018 provisional budget deliberations however has yet to be settled. That’s a plan to complete the next two phases of work to improve Rutland Centennial Park.

It was in this year’s budget but was predicated on the city receiving a Canada 150 grant from the federal government. That grant did not come through, and the plan to complete work was shelved. It did not make it into the 2018 budget at all.

But at the request of the mayor, council voted to have city staff report back on a way to move it into the 2018 budget and Basran said that will be discussed in January.

The final budget must be approved by the end of April.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.



awaters@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

More childcare spaces coming for Kelowna families

The provincial government stated that additional funding will create 68 more spaces in the Okanagan

Rockets grab win over reigning league champs in first game of road trip

Kelowna beat the Prince Albert Raiders 2-1 Friday night, take on Saskatoon Saturday

GoFundMe started for Kelowna family who lost pet, home in Rutland fire

A fire tore through a Rutland four-plex in the morning on Dec. 6

Winter Blues Festival returns to Lake Country

Harpdog Brown and the Uptown Blues Band headline the 2020 show on Jan. 25

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan receives $20,000 grant

The organization announced the grant from Revera on Friday

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

South Okanagan volunteer dental clinic donates rotten teeth to good cause

H.E.C.K. recently gifted 47 rotten teeth to a search and rescue group in the area

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Healing with honesty: Justice served 40 years later

Revelstoke senior gets house arrest for sexually assaulting stepdaughter

WorkSafe BC to investigate explosion at Princeton facility

Explosion at Envirogreen waste reclamation plant occurred Nov. 27

Doors open to Vernon’s first refill store

Vernon’s Refill Store may be answer to plastics problem

Most Read