Hefty Kelowna property tax increase resting on contract obligations, mayor says
By John McDonald
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December 12, 2015 - 6:30 PM
KELOWNA - Mayor Colin Basran would love to pare down the 4.11 per cent tax property tax increase council is considering but says they don’t have much room to move.
Basran says the combined costs of recent union contracts with city workers and firefighters, plus initial borrowing cots for the new police station, all contractual obligations, amount to 3.5 per cent.
“That leaves us 0.6 per cent for infrastructure and operations and if we want to increase services. I hate to say it but where are we going to cut.”
Taxation revenue will make up 38 per cent of next year’s budget of approximately $350 million.
Basran’s first budget as mayor last year was similarly dominated by the police services building and the hiring of six new officers, the last of 21 hired since 2013 to help lower caseloads in Kelowna, which were amongst the highest in the province.
At the time, Basran characterized a 3.5 per cent tax increase as “bare bones” because of the built-in contractual costs, which left just 1.7 per cent for new spending.
“Well this is double bare bones,” he says.
The city signed a seven-year union contract in June with Kelowna firefighters providing for annual increases of 2.5 per cent.
Kelowna council will go over the budget line by line at a day-long meeting at city hall on Dec. 17. That’s when councillors would typically try to pare down the budget where possible, even if by a couple of points.
Basran confirms council also has the option of adding items and going above the recommended tax increase although its not often done.
“We can do that but I that’s unlikely to happen,” Basran says.
Basran says the city is looking at ways to boost revenue such as subletting dark fibre capacity to tech companies or advertising sponsorships at city facilities.
The mayor says the budget increases will likely level off after next year once these new costs have been absorbed into the budget.
Basran says he would rather see a smaller increase but is still happy with Kelowna’s place in the bottom third of property tax rates for bigger B.C. communities.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015