iN COUNCIL: Kamloops expected to approve 11% tax hike, utility rates | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Kamloops News

iN COUNCIL: Kamloops expected to approve 11% tax hike, utility rates

UPDATE 4:46 p.m.

Third-party shelter audit

The mayor's longstanding desire for an audit of supportive housing and shelters in town were stripped away by the rest of council today.

For his first year as mayor, and even before he was elected, Reid Hamer-Jackson has pitched the idea to anyone who would listen.

Council voted to send a letter to the province and BC Housing to say the city is not interested in a third-party review, despite a 2021 vote of support to request it by the previous council.

Hamer-Jackson continued to explain why he thinks it's important to review the facilities before the vote, without swaying anyone to his side.

Although it may not be written into the letter explicitly, it tells the province the eight councillors are distancing themselves from the mayor's position.

"You continue to go to ministers without council direction and ask for something that has been explained ad nauseum would not be happening," Coun. Katie Neustaeter said.

Premier, and previous housing minister, David Eby has already told council it wasn't going to be done.

Coun. Kelly Hall said it's futile to continue asking for the review after the premier said it wouldn't be happening.

"I just don't see the need for it and I think it's a waste of time," he said.

Coun. Bill Sarai suggested Hamer-Jackson find ways to use his leverage as the mayor to find ways to support non-profits working with people that are homeless.

"If you really want to help, pick up the phone," Coun. Bill Sarai said.

Hanging over the debate, was the mayor's decision at the outset not to declare a conflict of interest and step away from the debate. 

He was warned by staff that he may want to step away, remaining consistent with the multiple times he's declared a conflict of interest with previous debates surrounding local non-profits and homelessness.

Hamer-Jackson refused the suggestion.

UPDATE 3:50 p.m.

'Downloading' from the province

One councillor wants city staff to tally up the financial burden local taxpayers are taking on due to "downloading" from the province.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter brought the suggestion to the meeting, hoping to measure up how much the city spends addressing homelessness and other social issues that should be up to the province.

The notice of motion, which will be debated on Jan. 9, comes in the wake of new provincial legislation that raises the bar for cities that want to break up homeless encampments.

Municipalities have to provide evidence to a court that there is reasonable shelter space available before encampments can be broken up. Councillors have previously noted, however, it is up to the province to fund shelters.

UPDATE 2:55 p.m.

Budget and utility rates

Council gave a nod to a 10.8 per cent property tax hike, but added some conditions.

Proposed by Coun. Katie Neustaeter, they asked staff to audit the budget once more and find ways to cut costs in 2024.

"I think we've heard from the community, the impending increase is fairly significant," Coun. Kelly Hall said. "I think it's time well spent by staff to come back with some options."

The proposal wasn't met with resounding approval, however.

"If we think all the heavy work is going to be on (staff), forget it." Coun. Nancy Bepple said. "We as a council have to be willing to cut services."

Bepple said councillors often hear from residents that want more services, but often do not hear from people asking to cut services.

The condition was attached, and staff are heading back to look for ways to cut costs from the budget. Council also approved new utility rates were also approved for water, sewage and garbage disposal.

UPDATE 2:42 p.m.

Gambling and Tourism

Tourism brought more than $500 million to Kamloops in the past year.

Tourism Kamloops presented the numbers during an annual report to council, showing the return to pre-pandemic revenues across the city. Nearly two million people visited Kamloops over the last year, spending $522 million in the city over the last year.

That's up from $499 million in 2019, according to Tourism Kamloops CEO Monica Dickinson. The organization still expects to run a deficit for the third year in a row, however, as it continues to promote tourism in the city.

Dickinson noted a survey the organization ran, where 94 per cent of residents said tourism is an important industry, but roughly half said the city lacks the attractions needed for tourism.

President and CEO of BCLC Pat Davis also gave an annual update for the provincial gambling corporation. 

Davis said the city has pulled in $3.5 million in gambling grants due to the two local casinos, while $1.7 million went to local non-profits.

He also said the province got 53 new millionaires in the past year thanks to BCLC winnings.

Original story

Tensions are expected in council chambers again as the mayor of Kamloops enters fresh with the memory of an order from the fire chief today.

A twice-burned vehicle on the Kamloops mayor's car lot has been deemed a fire hazard and he's been ordered to tow it.

Whether that will affect goings on during the council meeting today, Dec. 12, isn't clear as elected officials are expected to approve policies that will affect the pocketbooks of residents across the city.

We will be updating this post throughout the meeting with the latest.

Tax Rate

The city is looking to increase its tax rate for 2024, with council considering a 10.8% hike in just a year.

Under the proposed five-year plan, the tax increase will steadily decline beginning with another 6% hike in 2025, 4% in 2026 and around 3.5% in the next two years.

Council will consider whether to approve the 2024 rate hike today, Dec. 12, before finalizing any additional projects early next year.

In addition to the property tax increase, council will decide on its new utility rates, which includes a steep increase to potable water.

Downtown traffic

Staff are bringing a presentation to council after councillors asked for ways to improve the 1 Avenue and Lansdowne Street intersection.

While the report offers some minor changes to the downtown intersection, staff are suggesting the city look to the public for suggestions before making any decisions.

Leftovers

Before council makes any decisions, Tourism Kamloops and BC Lottery Corporation will give their annual presentations.

Chief administrative officer David Trawin will also give council an update on their four-year strategic plan and how the city is meeting their goals.

Go here for more information on what your city council is up to today.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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