Kelowna council signs off on 3.41% tax hike

Police presence evident in provisional budget evident with new detachment and more staff resources approved.

Call it the RCMP budget.

Kelowna council gave preliminary approval Thrusday to its 2015 budget and the big winner was the police.

In addition to a $48 million new police detachment building to be built on Clement Avenue this year, the Kelowna RCMP is also getting six more officers, a computer support technician and a secretary.

The city will also spend $1 million to improve Clement Avenue in the area of the new detachment building site at the corner of Clement Avenue and Richter Street.

“I think it’s fair to see this as a police budget,” said Basran following six hours of budget deliberations by his council.

But despite providing more for the police, Basran described the budget as “lean.”

He noted that of the 3.41 per cent property tax increase council settled on following the deliberations, 1.77 per cent was for the new building and a potential wage increase for RCMP officers here. Both costs, he said, were imposed on the city by the federal government.

In the case of the proposed wage increase, the province and the RCMP negotiate that contract without direct municipal input.

And in the case of the new detachment building, the RCMP had made it clear  new digs were needed because the local detachment had long ago outgrown the existing aging cramped Doyle Avenue police headquarters.

The six new officers, are expected to be on the job by late spring and will help the local force be more proactive in terms of crime reduction, said Kelowna RCMP Supt. Nick Romanchuck.

Three of the officers are the last installment of the 20 recommended by the Prosser Report in 2012. That report found Kelowna cops have a much bigger workload than other RCMP and municipal detachments across the country.

The second three officers will be added this year because of growth in the city since 2011.

Romanchuck welcomed the additions, saying the workload for his officers will remain high but he’ll take any help he can get.

Kelowna currently has 167 RCMP officers.

In addition to the officers, the local detachment is also getting a computer support technician who will help with two major computer-related projects the local RCMP will undertake this year.

The detachment plans to overhaul its email platform and covert to an electronic document and records management system this year.

While the $347 million city budget does not include any cuts to services, it will see fewer capital projects undertaken this year than in previous years.

Basran noted than when the 1.77 per cent is deducted from the preliminary tax increase approved Thursday, the remainder results in an increase of less than two per cent to maintain services, add some projects and infrastructure and keep the city running.

He publicly thanked city staff for coming through with smaller departmental budgets, knowing that Kelowna was already faced with the cost of a large project this year.

In the end, council deviated only slightly from the budget staff presented, knocking down the proposed tax increase by just 0.01 per cent.

Coun. Gail Given described the budget as full of “must haves” as opposed to “nice-to-haves.”

Two of the bigger items in the budget are the completion of John Hindle Drive in north Glenmore at a cost of $10 million, with $7 million coming from the provincial government, and nearly $5 million for the upgrade of Lakeshore Road in the Mission.

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