Here are some of the ways Kelowna may spend your money next year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Here are some of the ways Kelowna may spend your money next year

$2 million earmarked in next year's budget to design a new Parkinson Recreation Centre.

It’s budget time for most B.C. municipalities at this time of year where elected officials take a look at what they can add to their cities next year.

Provisional budgets are often debated each December but the final tax rate isn’t set until the value of new construction is known in the spring.

For Kelowna, city staff put together a 460-page document that was introduced to council yesterday, Dec. 6 and will be dissected by the elected officials in an all-day session on Thursday.

It’s calling for a tax hike of 3.5% for next year but that can change if councillors add or subtract items and by the accuracy of staff’s estimate of taxes from new construction.

The city hopes to collect $166.2 million from its 145,600 residents, up from $157.7 million this year.

Yet taxes only make up 19% of city revenues. Most, 52%, come from “interest and penalties.” Another 16% comes from the provincial government and 12% through franchise fees.

Many of the projects are partially funded out of reserve funds or things like development cost charges. Any money spent at Kelowna Airport has no tax impact because it is fully funded from its own revenues.

And, despite the huge size of the budget document, councillors are just looking at new items staff think need to be added. Many of those, like new staff, carry ongoing costs into future years.

Councillors really have no choice about adding some items, like $8.25 million in back pay to its 210 RCMP officers.

The RCMP signed its first ever collective agreement last summer, giving officers a 24% pay hike over the six-year term of the contract from 2017 to 2022.

The City of Kelowna has been setting money aside each year in anticipation of that payment so that doesn't trigger a tax increase by itself.

On the discretionary side, there are things like the 10 new RCMP officers being requested, along with five civilians to work with police.

Each officer costs the city $203,000 a year.

The expansion to the police force is also triggering a study to figure out how to crowd them all into a detachment office that just opened in 2017 and may have to be expanded sooner than expected.

Other items in the budget are tiny, like $19,000 for a pilot project to lay wheelchair mats over the sand at Rotary Beach so they can be wheeled right into the water. The current concrete ramps at Rotary and Gyro beaches are deteriorating, the budget document says.

There’s money needed to hire new staff with 42 new full-time positions proposed, bringing the city to 1,030.7 full time equivalent positions next year.

There’s lots of studies and designs in the works for major projects in subsequent years.

The biggest one is $2 million to design a new Parkinson Recreation Centre with eight swimming lanes in a 25 metre pool, a leisure pool, three gyms and a “fitness suite.”

Originally budgeted at $100 million, it’s now estimated to be closer to $135 million because of inflation in construction costs. The study will seek input from user groups and the public and “will increase cost certainty” leading up to a loan authorization process in 2023.

READ MORE: COVID has added $100 million in expenses for Kelowna's long range construction plans

Another major project a bit further down the road is the replacement of Kelowna Community Theatre. That’s not likely to happen until late in the decade, if not longer, but $50,000 is proposed for a “funding feasibility study” next year. Another $50,000 is slated for a study to upgrade the Island Stage in Waterfront Park that may be able to serve as one of a number of alternative performance spaces while the community theatre is rebuilt.

In the meantime, money is proposed for improvements to the Kelowna Community Theatre ticket booth ($20,000) and stage lighting ($320,000).

READ MORE: Dream of new Kelowna performing arts centre shaken but not dashed

Also on the recreation side is $700,000 for the design for two new ice sheets at the Capital News Center. The $28.4 project is expected to go through an alternate approval process in 2023 with the aim to have them open by the end of 2025.

Two more ball diamonds are slated for the Mission Recreation Park in 2023, with money set aside for design work next year.

There are also numerous bike paths slated to be designed or built next year.

That includes the Abbott Street corridor being extended to Cedar Avenue at a cost of $1.85 million along with the Ethel Street bike lane extended south of KLO Road along Casorso Road to Lanfranco Road for $935,000 at one end and from Clement Road to Cawston Road at the other for an additional $111,000.

A 4.2 km pathway from Parkinson Recreation Centre to Okanagan Lake is in the works along with a replacement for the bride in Millbridge Park.

There won’t be much visible in terms of roadways for cars but there will be design work to improve Casorso Road between Benvoulin and Swamp roads, Benvoulin Road between KLO and Casorso roads and Stewart Road West between Saucier and Swamp roads.

For anyone wanting to look in detail at the entire budget, go here.

To watch the council debate on Thursday, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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