2013 budget talks begin | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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2013 budget talks begin

Vernon City Hall

The City of Vernon is planning a conservative approach to spending this coming year.

The draft 2013 Financial Plan was brought to council today, and the city's chief administrative officer says it will guide Vernon on a path of security. 

"The main difference between this plan (and last year's) is the entire budget is based on long term, sustainable revenue," said Will Pearce. He pointed out that the city drew over $1 million from corporate reserves in 2012. 
Kevin Bertles, the city's Finance Manager, said this year saw the lowest reserve funds since 2005. 
"These are challenging economic times," said Bertles. "This budget prepares us to weather the economic storm."
Pearce said the plan strives to contain city costs, and that the operating budget growth is 0.2%. The restraint on operating budget growth is intended to balance out the city's financial situation. 
Limitations on expenditures has forced some divisions, most notably the RCMP, to cut services, said Bertles. Council will decide whether or not to allow these reductions in service. The plan would see that expenditure growth in all divisions is restricted to 1.8 percent. 
The budget is also designed to return money—$2 million said Pearce—to reserve funds to ensure long term sustainability. 
Council was presented with what Bertle's called a "$2 million shopping list" of service reduction, service elimination and new revenue options. 
Also proposed is a 10 year program to increase property taxes at 1.9% per year. 
"Within 5 years this will generate approximately $2.5 million per year," said Pearce. In ten years, it would be about $6 million. 
Pearce said the taxes would be invested into Vernon's aging infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks, public buildings, parks, sewer lines and storm water management systems. 
Pearce said the city must act to protect these municipal assets, and that "failure to do this is not an option."
"This is a tough budget," he added, "But it sets our financial house in order."
Councillors will be given time to review the 500 page document over the holidays, and will meet to discuss changes to the draft starting Jan. 16. 
—Charlotte Helston

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