Kamloops looking to save on tax increase by making service cuts | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops looking to save on tax increase by making service cuts

December 07, 2020 - 1:00 PM

While Kamloops council is looking to cut services next year in order to keep tax increases low, councillors drew the line at reducing hours to the Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre and the Memorial Arena.

City staff proposed in November to reduce operations for Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre in one of the following options: reduce hours, close part of the year or close for 2021, which committee members rejected as well as an option to temporarily close the Memorial Arena, according to a update posted to the City of Kamloops website.

At the committee of the whole meeting Nov. 24, corporate services director Kathy Humphrey provided a report on the 2021 provisional budget and utility rates.

Staff said use of the pool and fitness centre has increased significantly since the renovations in 2017 due to the increased hours of availability, but the uncertainty and restrictions caused by the pandemic will likely lead to lower numbers in 2021.

The committee discussed the budget and recommended the inclusion of several cost reduction measures to bring the provisional tax rate increase to 0.28 per cent. This rate will be adjusted and finalized in the new year.

The proposed property tax rate increase would equal an extra $6 dollars on the annual tax bill for the average household, according to the city.

The report also recommended a 2.5 per cent increase in sewer rates, which would equate to an extra $11 dollars on the annual tax bill for the average household in 2021.

The committee agreed instead to move forward with other cost saving efforts for the city, including eliminating street light inspections and instead rely on complaints from residents, reducing temperatures in civic buildings, reducing the number of hours for public access to City Hall and reducing the city calendar publication, which is typically distributed in newspapers every December, moving to a print-on-demand approach. These cost-cutting measures could save the city more than $250,000.

Currently, city staff drive around every five weeks to inspect streetlights and the report proposed the city could save up to $20,000 by moving to a complaint-based system.

The committee also rejected cost saving options related to the Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre and the Memorial Arena. The budgets and operations for these two facilities will be set to maintain a consistent service level as previous years.

In August, council directed staff to prepare the 2021 budget and 2021-2025 five-year financial plan with reduced services to bring the tax rate to a lower level for the next several years, specifically in 2021, according to city documents.

Dave Hallinan, planning procurement manager for the city, said staff originally recommended a 0.49 per cent increase which was then cut to 0.28 based on direction from council for staff to find cost-cutting measures to save taxpayers money due to the pandemic.

The city’s five-year financial plan and sewer bylaw will be presented to city council Dec. 8 for first, second and third readings.

"It gives us the licence to operate until the budget is finalized," Hallinan said.

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