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City budget 'bare bones' despite sizeable tax increase

A replacement for Kelowna's aging RCMP headquarters is putting pressure on the city budget.
January 10, 2015 - 7:27 PM

KELOWNA — Even Kelowna’s mayor concedes it sounds odd calling a possible 3.5 per cent tax increase a “bare bones budget."

“It sounds crazy but this is actually a very lean budget,” says Colin Basran, who blames two big-ticket items — Kelowna’s new police station and recent union contract settlement — for the increase. “Both these items are beyond our control whether we like it or not."

Breaking ground on the new $48-million headquarters for the RCMP, the hiring of three new officers, plus a police wage increase is projected to eat up almost 1.8 per cent of the proposed tax increase while Basran said paying for the first year of the multi-year contract covering the city’s CUPE workers takes up a big chunk of the other 1.7 per cent.

“These are not commitments that can be delayed or deferred,” adds Basran, who nevertheless said he is both happy to have the contract settlement and the new police headquarters. “But it means if we want to reduce the increase, we would have to cut service levels.”

The property tax increase, if adopted, would tack an addtional $60 for an average home. Basran said protective services are getting the lion’s share of this year’s budget increase but  policing and public safety were identified as the number one concern of Kelowna residents.

City manager Ron Mattiussi is recommending a budget of $347 million in the 2015 financial plan of which property taxes are to provide $114 million, outstripping current tax revenue by just over $6 million.

Mattiussi said city departments were asked to reduce their budgets to keep the tax impact at 1.7 per cent, but warned that service levels and infrastructure project timelines could be affected.

The city manager also warns of limited tax support for capital projects, singling out the police services building as a limiter on Kelowna’s future borrowing capacity. Basran and his  councillors will receive the 2015 financial plan at Tuesday’s council meeting and will begin line-by-line consideration of it on Thursday.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infotelnews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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