Raising Kelowna taxes ‘no silver bullet’

City needs to look at more innovative ways to fund infrastructure moving forward

The City of Kelowna will need to do more to fund future infrastructure says a new report. —Image: Capital News file

Kelowna city council already plans to raise property taxes this year by an extra 1.95 per cent this year and going forward to help pay for future infrastructure, now a new city report says Kelowna will have to do even more to meet the need.

The city’s annual Community Trends Report focused this year on infrastructure renewal and funding and says infrastructure costs over the next 10 years could reach as high as $1.5 billion, with the city coming up short by nearly $480 million.

“Infrastructure is more than just pipes in the ground and roads,” city planner Ross Soward told council Monday.

He said it includes things like transit, parks and other amenities that add to quality of life and make the city a desirable place to live.

Because of the “infrastructure deficit,” Kelowna will need to be more innovative about how it generates funding for future infrastructure, says the report. That could include grants from other levels of government, partnerships, getting private money to help pay for public infrastructure, paying up front to realize long-term savings and infill development to limit sprawl among other approaches.

“There is no silver bullet,” said Soward.

He said Kelowna is not alone in facing an infrastructure crunch. It is currently being felt by cities across the country. Nationally, the report said Canada is facing a $270 billion infrastructure deficit.

“It’s going to require a holistic response exploring new funding tools, changing some policies and new ways of doing business,” said Soward.

In December, city council added the 1.95 per cent to the proposed 2019 property tax increase, bringing the planned increase to a total of 4.43 per cent. Last year, the tax increase was 3.6 per cent without any additional levy to help pay for future infrastructure needs.

But the “levy,” as the city is calling it, will only generate about 10 per cent of what is needed for infrastructure over the next 10 years.

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