Tax hike of 4.4 percent proposed for Kelowna property owners

City council will go over the 2017 budget on Thursday and may reduce the proposed increase slightly.

For the second year in a row, half the proposed tax increase Kelowna property owners are looking at as council prepares for the week’s 2017 budget deliberations is due to the new police services building that is currently under construction and the six new RCMP officers added last year.

The proposed increase is 4.4 per cent, slightly higher than last year’s 4.11 per cent increase.

According to the city’s finance department, previous commitments by council, such as the contractual obligation for staff, the police services building, and the annualization cost of adding the six new officers ealier this year account for more than 2.2 per cent of the proposed increase.

“This year’s budget increase is necessary to meet previous years’ commitments and provide the resources or funding needed to keep up with our growing population, including our homeless population,” said Genelle Davidson, director of financial services.

“As an innovative city, we are agile enough to adapt when growing issues arise, such as homelessness.”

Earlier this week, council approved a plan to develop a new strategy to deal with homelessness here and it’s new social issues manager said as a result of the approval a budget request of $125,000 would be made to council to pay for it, with another $75,000 to be ought from community contributions and grants.

Council will sit down and go over all new budget requests for 2017 line by line next Thursday (Dec. 15).

According to the city, community safety continues to be a significant part of the budget, with requests for 2017 for two new RCMP officers, ongoing RCMP contract costs, new firefighters, a new fire truck, two more bylaw enforcement officers, continued work on the police services building, Glenmore firehall upgrades, needle sterilization and disposal and a safety coordinator, in addition to additional resources to address homelessness.

Total capital investments of $848 million over the 10 years will balance the need to renew existing infrastructure with the need to create new infrastructure, with 31 per cent going to asset renewal (maintenance and replacement of existing city buildings and infrastructure) and 22 per cent to new infrastructure. Another 47 per cent is allocated to keep up with growth in the city, which is now a large part of Canada’s fastest growing metropolitan area.

Next year,the city intends to spend $68.3 million on capital investments.

Approximately two-thirds of city revenue comes from non-tax sources, such as user fees and charges, grants and reserve accounts.

The budget is also influenced by a number of strategic plans, including the long-term infrastructure plans, the Official Community Plan, 20-year servicing plan and council priorities.

The final tax rate will be set in April 2017 when City Council reviews final budget requests.