Kelowna city council has approved its budget for 2015, and taxpayers are getting a slight break from the increase expected as a result of its provisional budget deliberations in December.
Instead of the 3.46 per cent increase council settled on then, the final hike to the municipal portion of the anual property tax notice will be 3.2 per cent.
That means the owner of an “average” priced house in the city—a single-family home worth $467,730—will pay a total property tax bill of $2,564 this year, a $47.73 jump from last year, according to city director of financial services Genelle Davidson.
Of the total tax bill, $1,950 would be the municipal portion, with the rest being taxes the city collects for other jurisdictions such as the school district, the regional district, the regional hospital district and the Okanagan Regional Library, as well as provincial agencies such as the B.C. Assessment Authority and the B.C. Municipal Financing Authority. The city has no control over how much those taxes are pegged at each year.
“It’s normal to see changes between provisional and final budget,” said city financial planning manager George King Monday.
“We have access to new information between August and May, such as emergent items, which are included in the final budget.
He said this year, the city saw an increase in revenues from the FortisBC franchise fee for natural gas sales in Kelowna and a reduction in capital expenditures due to the recent removal of the Cameron House restoration project. That saved the city $200,000 for 2015.
“That equals the 0.26 per cent reduction in tax demand from the provisional budget,” said King of the extra revenues and reduced expenditures.
This year, the city will collect $113.5 million in property taxes and collect another $95.5 million for other jurisdictions.
Taxation accounts for 24 per cent of Kelowna’s annual revenues, with 76 per cent coming from other sources such as grants, reserve funds, fees and charges.
In the 2015 budget, costs associated with protective services, such as police and the fire department, account for more than half of the 3.2 per cent increase.
In her report to council Monday afternoon, Davidson said this year’s budget continues to provide for the services, infrastructure and amenities expected by city residents in a conscientious and cost-effective manner.
For more than a decade, the city has received an annual award for its budgeting from the Government Finance Officers Association.
The tax increase this year was higher then in recent years, in large part because of the cost of the new $54 million police building slated for Clement Avenue in the North End and the cost of the latest RCMP contract. Those two components alone meant the city started its budget deliberations in December starring at a minimum 1.77 per cent tax increase before anything else added.
Davidson told council as a result of commitments in this year’s budget for future years, the 2016 budget deliberations are already slated to start with a 1.54 per cent tax increase before any other projects or operations are considered.
In recent years, the city has tried to hold the average annual property tax increase to around two per cent.
But that proved impossible this year when it had to start off with the 1.77 per cent hike prompted by the cost of the new police building and RCMp contract.