December 22, 2015 - 11:30 AM
PENTICTON - Penticton City Council and staff are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel following a lengthy budget meeting in council chambers this week, and it could cost taxpayers upwards of $81 per year.
Council took a long look at the 2016 operating budget yesterday morning, Dec. 21, followed by a longer session in which they distributed a municipal grant funding budget totalling $959,000.
At the end of the approximately five and a half hour long meeting, staff was able to provide a ballpark figure for council in terms of the city’s tax increase for 2016.
“We’ve made the majority of our cuts, and we’ll be somewhere between 4.78 and 5.8 per cent,” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit announced at the conclusion of the meeting.
The difference between the low and high is due to anticipated revenue sources that could add up to $265,000 to next year’s budget.
According to staff estimates, the result will translate to between $67 and $81 annual tax increase for an average priced ($324,348) home in Penticton.
"It’s actually in my opinion reasonable. People sort of take a panic attack at 4.78 or 5.8 but let’s put that into reality in numbers,” Coun. Judy Sentes said, adding she would be in favour of taking the high range tax increase. “Looking forward, I think it’s prudent that we recognize there has to be an increase and if we hear some of the advice from our city manager, if we have increases for the next two years of a significant nature to get us back on track, then it will fall back into a more consistent range."
Coun. Andre Martin warned of pending increases to the city’s utilities next year as well while Coun. Tarik Sayeed condemned previous councils for their fiscal management.
“We do need to reflect some of our grant funds were already slashed by about $100,000 even before it came to council and now we’ve reduced it even further. It wasn’t easy for any one of us. The reality is we were faced with cost increases from past decisions. My personal observation concludes that over the past few years, especially under the mayorship of Dan Ashton, what should have happened was Finance 101, and what should have happened was an increase incrementally with inflation. In reality what happened was Politics 101.”
Sayeed said, from his perspective, present council was cleaning up the state of affairs that was left behind, calling present council 'passionate and receptive' about Penticton.
Council spent much of the day going over a long list of grant applications.
“At some point we’re going to have to make some cuts. We have to make tough decisions,” Coun.Campbell Watt pointed out during an extended discussion over a $13,600 request from Penticton and District Community Arts Council, which was eventually approved.
“Everyone is important, but we have to start making some tough choices,” Coun. Andre Martin also observed during a discussion over a $18,000 request from the South Okanagan Seniors Wellness Society, an ask that was eventually paired down to $12,000.
It is expected the budget will be ready for first reading in January.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015