City of Kelowna construction.

Guest column: Kelowna’s provisional budget 2017

Kelowna communications manager takes a closer look at what’s happening in the city

By Tom Wilson

Leading up to council’s review of the provisional budget on Dec. 14, this question is bound to come up: Why don’t taxes simply reflect the rate of inflation?

The Consumer Price Index is the most widely used measure of inflation. The CPI measures cost increases for these consumer expenses: Food, shelter, household operations, furniture, clothing, transportation, health, personal care, recreation, education, alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

From that list, costs associated with shelter/household operations, transportation and education can also apply to municipalities. The rest have little or no relevance for municipalities. The city’s shopping basket of supplies includes other, costlier items—steel, concrete, fuel, water treatment, asphalt, labour, heavy equipment and citizens’ safety.

Making a direct comparison between CPI and municipal taxes isn’t that simple.

A number of other factors influence the annual tax rate beyond inflation. For example, every annual budget contains ongoing impact costs to maintain service levels approved in previous budgets. Examples include paying for the new Kelowna Police Services building for ongoing operations and maintenance, union and contractor wage increases from negotiated multi-year contracts and phase two of the customer care improvement project that will see upgrades to the utility billing system.

These multi-year costs alone can typically amount to a two-per-cent rate increase—before anything else is even considered for the new budget year.

Then consider the costs of keeping up with growth. We’re one of the fastest growing regions in Canada, adding thousands of new residents every year who are drawn by our reputation for having a high quality of life, but who also need more roads, underground infrastructure, buses, parks, recreation and cultural opportunities. On top of that, there can be unexpected costs—like the $10 million in flood damages to city property that needs to be replaced or repaired, $3 million of which the city will pay for, with the remainder covered by the provincial government.

The Citizen Survey and ongoing engagement and interaction with residents virtually every day of the year helps identify budget priorities.

Expanding and diversifying the type and price-points for housing is a priority reflected in city programs such as the Infill Challenge, Rental Housing Grant Program, the Journey Home Strategy and the Housing Needs Strategy, along with partnerships with other levels of government to address housing needs. Maintaining or improving a feeling of safety and security in a city of nearly 130,000 requires a certain amount of financial and human resources—that remains a priority.

Over the years, the city administration has developed other revenue sources to reduce the demand on taxpayers. Today, taxes account for just over one-third of the overall budget, with the remaining majority coming from user fees and charges, grants and reserves. Strong financial management—another council priority—includes choosing the best timing to make investments that have the greatest benefit to the community.

The budget’s link to council community priorities has helped the City of Kelowna achieve a high level of satisfaction with residents when asked about the value they receive for the taxes they pay.

For the past decade, a large majority of residents have said they receive high value for their taxes in Kelowna, and most residents are willing to pay the same or more to maintain or increase services.

Tom Wilson is the corporate communications manager for the City of Kelowna

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


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

City of Kelowna tourists.

Just Posted

World Community Film Festival returns to Kelowna

The festival celebrates its 16th anniversary

Line-up for Kelowna Fan Experience 2019 to be announced

The line-up will be announced Feb. 22

2019’s “status quo” budget accepted cautiously by Kelowna Chamber

“(This budget) is to appeal to an NDP base.”

Teresa May talent agency opens in Kelowna

The agency will be holding an all ages open casting event Feb. 24

Niedermayer jersey retirement ceremony a dream come true

Penticton minor hockey players bring home memories of a lifetime from Niedermayer jersey retirement

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Larch Hills junior skiers top Teck BC Midget Championships

Multiple top-five finishes contribute to aggregate team trophy

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

Vehicle fire on Coquihalla near Kamloops

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising into the sky over Highway 5

Pool plans disappoint Shuswap swim clubs

Salmon Arm mayor assures options for city rec centre only preliminary

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

Most Read