January 23, 2016 - 1:00 PM
WEST KELOWNA - Mayor Doug Findlater likes his property tax increases a bit like Goldilocks - not so big as to alarm residents but not so small as to impede the new city’s progress toward urban amenities.
“Anything more than three per cent and people start to freak out,” Findlater says. “We’re playing catch up so anything less means things aren’t getting done and that’s what people want.”
Two councillors, Bryden Winsby and Rusty Ensign, have proposed a larger increase of 3.5 per cent with the additional money going into a recreation reserve fund but the mayor says he wouldn’t likely support the extra half per cent increase, prefering instead the slow steady growth council has chosen since incorporation in 2007.
“We’ve held to three per cent or less all the way through except for the first year,” Findlater says.
Since then, the mayor says his government has tried to tackle the shortfalls in infrastructure that came with the move from a rural regional district, from roads to sewers to sidewalks.
Findlater doesn’t quite share the attitude of Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi who recently told councillors there that chasing the lowest possible tax increase or tying it to inflation merely leads to shortfalls for future taxpayers to deal with.
Kelowna council has given preliminary approval to a 4.1 per cent property tax increase, almost half of which is devoted to the hiring of six addtional RCMP officers, plus the construction of a new $48-million police station.
“When we incorporated we knew we were going to have to renew infrastructure,” Findlater adds. "People wanted something to happen, for things to start moving so that’s what we’ve been doing. Slow sustainble growth from rural to urban. We want those urban amenities but we’re not going to do it all at once.”
Findlater says council is not adverse to spending money where it will have impact, pointing to its recent decision to override staff’s recommendation and set the sidewalks budget at $600,000 for 2016, much higher than suggested.
“We have all these urban neighbourhoods and they may have sidewalks within them but they don’t connect to the centre, so we’re working on that. Also around schools, there’s a shortfall,” Findlater adds.
Should the preliminary 2016 budget stand, the city will spend $10.2 million on capital projects in 2016 and direct just over $5 million to reserve funds.
West Kelowna council will next consider their preliminary budget Feb. 9.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016