Guest Editorial: City of Kelowna explains annual report

Wondering about staffing decisions? Hear straight from the City of Kelowna

Kelowna City Hall

By Tom Wilson

The City of Kelowna’s Annual Report probably didn’t make the best-seller list (it’s free, after all), it is a great publication to read about what was accomplished in 2016 and what the city has planned for the year ahead.

Last year, more than 1,340 people looked at this easy-to-read online publication available at kelowna.ca. This year’s edition is now available and features a number of brief video interviews with members of the community who talk about how they and their organizations connect with the community and with the City of Kelowna.

People with a finance background might find the financial section interesting, since it accounts for all the revenue and spending decisions in 2016.

Among all those numbers, here are a couple of important figures: 29.7 per cent and 28 per cent.

The first number reflects the percentage of operating expenditures in 2016 devoted to staff, while the second number is the amount of operating expenditures paid to contractors. These numbers are important because they reflect how the City of Kelowna strives for a balance between staff and contracted services to keep the tax demand lower.

For example, it’s more economical to contract out some services such as garbage collection or building construction than it is to pay wages and benefits for permanent full-time City staff to do those jobs.

Kelowna Council and administration are always focused on offering a fair tax rate for the services provided. Kelowna is in the bottom five lowest tax rates for cities in B.C. and 84 per cent of residents polled in 2015 said they receive good value for their tax dollar. And 55 per cent of city revenues come from sources other than taxation.

The city’s staff costs are watched closely—wage increments have averaged between one and two per cent for the past five years and five-year labour contracts have meant cost certainty and labour stability.

Meanwhile, Kelowna has been one of the fastest growing cities in Canada for the past five years. Our city attracted more than 10,000 new residents between 2011 and 2016—that’s a growth rate of nearly nine per cent.

Despite being the fastest growing region in Canada since 2013—which drives the need for more services, more roads, sidewalks, facilities—staffing levels have increased moderately.

Some of the new positions added in recent years address community priorities for social development, protective services and energy efficiency. Programs to implement energy saving will save taxpayers millions of dollars in the years ahead, while the Social Development Manager will establish a framework to more effectively address mental health and addiction issues in our city.

The city provides hundreds of services that require a wide variety of degrees and specialized qualifications. And it competes with the public and private sector to get employees who are qualified to fill these positions.

Hiring qualified people who have a heart for public service is an approach that strives to provide citizens with the best service and value possible for their money.

The Ipsos Research database of municipal norms in Canada found Kelowna residents are more likely than those living elsewhere to say they receive good value for taxes—84 per cent in Kelowna versus the national average of 77 per cent.

In fact, the majority of residents consistently tell the City of Kelowna they would rather pay a little more in taxes to maintain or expand services. In 2015, Ipsos found 56 per cent of residents had this preference, compared to the national average of 47 per cent who held this same opinion.

Some taxation is required to maintain a well run city that meets citizen demands. Enhanced public safety, social development, more support for entertainment and culture and better access to Okanagan Lake from waterfront and linear parks are some of the citizen-driven initiatives being funded.

Tom Wilson is a communications manager with the city of Kelowna

Just Posted

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

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

UPDATE: Tractor trailer overturned on Highway 3A near Yellow Lake

Drivers may be wise to plan an alternate route as crews will need to recover the truck

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

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

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

Shuswap children’s organizations offer mixed reviews on Budget 2019

Concern over long waitlists, early intervention funding, but relief child care funds are included

Most Read