Keeping residents safe a big part of 2017 Vernon budget - InfoNews

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Keeping residents safe a big part of 2017 Vernon budget

FILE PHOTO - Russ Lutsenko, a bylaw officer with the City of Vernon, is pictured in this file photo. Vernon is looking at increasing its bylaw budget to include more seasonal resources next summer to help manage a rising number of homeless camps.
November 30, 2016 - 1:00 PM

VERNON - Costs for several major city services were outlined today as Vernon politicians began tackling the 2017 budget.

Bylaw has asked for roughly $69,500 in added funds for seasonal staff to help monitor and supervise homeless camps next summer. The program was approved for the first time this past summer.

A report on the requested funding change says increased transient and homeless levels in the community, along with issues of panhandling, camping, unruly behaviour, alcohol, drug activity, and congregation in parks, are becoming common place, and files for bylaw officers have climbed to levels not seen in the past.

“In order to manage these problems, additional staffing levels are required,” the report states.

RCMP Supt. Jim McNamara also presented his budget request to council, which included an overall increase of 6.5 per cent to a total of roughly $7.8 million, up from $7.4 million in 2016. Most of the increase is related to two additional police officer positions that were approved as part of last year’s budget deliberations. McNamara said the detachment is also facing more over time costs related to police security at events such as Remembrance Day and the Military Tattoo in order to ensure police and public safety.

Vernon Fire and Rescue Services is looking at an increase of 1.8 per cent in its overall budget, to roughly $5.3 million up from $5.2 million in 2016. In particular, costs are going up for emergency management services, which is covered under the umbrella of Vernon Fire and Rescue. At today’s meeting, council approved a substantial increase for emergency services related to the termination of an inter-municipal agreement with other North Okanagan communities. The new stand alone program will cost $75,000.

Council approved both the Fire and Rescue and police budgets this morning.

Chief administrative officer Will Pearce described the overall budget — which covers all facets of the city’s costs including corporate, recreation, parks, and public works services — as a ‘boots on the ground’ direct service budget. In a written report, Pearce said the budget features an operating budget within a 1.7 per cent tax rate increase, continuing with a 1.9 per cent cumulative tax rate increase council previously ear marked for infrastructure renewal projects.

"Public safety is the focus for 2017," Pearce said. 

Also included in the proposed budget are increases to the maintenance of roads,cemetery, sidewalks, storm management system, local parks, lake access points, as well as sanitary sewer collection and treatment. 

Budget discussions continue today and tomorrow, Dec. 1 at city hall. Remaining public input sessions are at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 30, and 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1.

You can find the full budget package here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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