KELOWNA - The Central Okanagan Regional District will spend $59.4 million of your tax dollars this year and you’re welcome to say something about it.
“There is an opportunity for the public to address the board regarding the 2015-19 financial plan,” said spokesman Bruce Smith. “They don’t have to preschedule or anything. There is a time limit of 5 minutes max, but people can show up and speak if they wish or just observe the procedings.”
If there are any fireworks, it will be during the public presentations as the board has already burned through two drafts of the budget and are unlikely to oppose it. “I guess this is the final stamp, so to speak,” said Smith. “Pretty much everything has already been hashed out."
The bottom line for most areas in the regional district is a slight increase. The tax on an an average home with value of $489,000 in Kelowna, for example, would be $160.17. The tax on an average home in West Kelowna valued at $490,000 would be $176.04. Smith makes sure to point out that regional district taxes are lumped into the total property tax bill and residents will not receive a separate bill. "It's collected as a line item when you pay your property taxes," he added.
This year’s CORD budget is actually down from last year’s $61.1 million, Smith said, and would have been lower had the regional district not been forced to divert biosolids from the Westside wastewater treatment plant to a previous supplier at a higher price.
“The protest at BioCentral is ongoing,” said Smith, who added the regional district had hoped to save almost $1 million over the five year span of the $1.15-million contract with BioCentral. “Unfortunately the benefits we were hoping to see have not come to fruition,” he said.
By far the bulk of the CORD budget, just over 40 per cent, is dedicated to debt financing through the Municipal Finance Authority.
By provincial law, the district’s member communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland must borrow money through the regional district, Smith said, and then pay it back as part of their own budget. In the two electoral areas, by contrast, property owners pay taxes to the province which in turn, remits it to the regional district. The Westbank First Nation is also a member community.
Recreation and cultural services take the next biggest chunk of the pie at almost 14 per cent or $8.2 million, while protective and environmental services chew up almost $5.9 million (9.9 per cent) and $4.2 million (7.1 per cent) respectively. Sewage and water treatment takes up almost 7.5 per cent ($4.5 million) while administration is seeking 7.1 per cent ($3.85 million).
The regional district board is composed of councillors from each of the member communities. Kelowna Coun. Gail Given was appointed the new chair of the board taking over from Robert Hobson, the long-time Kelowna councillor who did not seek reelection in the fall civic elections.
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— This story was corrected at 1:50 p.m., Friday, March 27 with new information from the Central Okanagan Regional District.
— This story was corrected at 3:00 p.m., Friday, March 27 with new information from the Central Okanagan Regional District.