KAMLOOPS — It took little more than three hours yesterday for Kamloops City councillors to decide homeowners would pay an average of just over $35 in additional taxes this year.
Several meetings and public information sessions were held over the past five months to discuss the core budget and the additional requests. Yesterday $2.8 million in additional requests were up for debate as council finalized the 2014 budget.
Heading into the budget discussions in February the core budget alone was set to increase the tax rate by 1.87 per cent and with the supplemental items being requested rates could have gone as high as five per cent.
A couple items were dropped even before they hit the chopping block— $100,000 for upgrades to the storm system and $75,000 for the Thrive Festival. With those removed, council was heading into the morning budget meeting looking at a total increase of 2.17 per cent.
Council then knocked another $150,000 off during the meeting, including the cost of adding a mental health nurse to the Car 40 program ($130,000) and a study into the feasibility of an outdoor artificial rink at $20,000, to bring the total tax rate increase down to two per cent.
That increase means the average homeowner will pay an extra $35.12 due to the tax rate increase, in addition to another few dollars because of mill rate changes.
The mill rate changes are designed to lower taxes for heavy industry. Council decided to keep the rate for for heavy industry the same as in 2013 which means homeowners are again picking up the slack, this time to the tune of three cents per $1,000 in assessed value. This change results in $250,000 in tax savings to heavy industry and about $10 on a house valued at $300,000.
The city will now file papers with the province as it looks at adjusting boundaries to include New Gold, which will help lower taxes further for the other four heavy industry companies-Arclin, Domtar, LaFarge and Tolko. The hope is with the boundary expansion taxes for heavy industry can be lowered, making business in Kamloops more viable.
The necessary bylaws will now go before budget on April 15 and on April 29 the budget will be ratified, sealing in the increases.
So what made the cut?
Todd Road pedestrian upgrade $725,000
Westsyde water park $370,000
Performing Arts Centre study $260,000
Kermode bear habitat $250,000
Active Transportation fund $250,000
Riverside Park family washroom $120,000
Portable bleachers $90,000
Mower with 12 ft deck $80,00
Sledge Hockey retrofit $75,000
RCMP officer $74,060 (half year cost, will double in 2015)
Utility vehicle $60,000
Riverside Park upgrades (to prevent flooding of the Rivers Trail under the CN bridge) $50,000
Cowan Street Park $45,000
Two mechanics $37,500
Dog park upgrades $35,000 (to be funded through increase in dog licencing fees)
Brock Arena handicap lift $30,000
Full activated traffic signal at Columbia and 11 or 12 Avenues $25,000 ($250,000 required in 2015)
Hot asphalt tac sprayer $20,000
Automatic Vehicle Locating system study $15,000
Business analyst $12,875 (will increase to $37,875 in 2015)
Restorative Justice program $9,880
Council chambers video improvement $7,500
Additional transit hours, no cost this year but 18 months lead time is required by B.C. Transit ($132,000 in 2015 and $420,000 going forward starting in 2016)
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