Kelowna risks falling behing maintaining its $2.5 billion worth of assets

KELOWNA - Kelowna has been tightening the belt over the last few years when it comes to the amount it spends annually on renewing and adding to the $2.5 billion worth of infrastructure it owns.

And it needs to restore the automatic funding meant for it or risk having to downgrade some projects in the city’s $1-billion 2030 infrastructure plan.

As well, the city is now exceeding its own informal policy of not allowing debt servicing to exceed five per cent of taxation demand for the duration of the plan.

Infrastructure planning manager Joel Shaw says the city in 2010 was spending about $16 million each year on renewing or adding to current infrastructure plus enhancing service levels but that number has dropped to just $12 million today.

In addition, the city hasn’t followed its own formula of assigning 40 per cent of new taxation revenue (based on a growth rate of 1.58 per cent) for several years, Shaw says.

Some Kelowna councillors mused about not only restoring the automatic budget increase, but increasing it to 50 per cent, but Shaw says he would be happy just to to see the regular funding formula restored.

The increase will gradually nudge the infrastructure capital budget back up, allowing the $1 billion worth of projects or replacement programs on the books to go ahead as projected.

“It amounts to about a 1.58 per cent growth increase and it is assumed going forward on the infrastructure plan it will be reinstated,” Shaw says. “I hope this is as low as it goes and it starts going up. If it does not, the 2030 infrastructure plan will not look the same at the end.”

Shaw says the plan focuses on preserving existing infrastructure in all areas, including roads and sewers, buildings and parks, before adding to inventory.

Mayor Colin Basran was not immediately available for an interview.

Half the spending, $487 million, will be driven by population growth, another $387 million by the need to replace or renew existing infrastructure and just under $200 million to add to current service levels, according the the plan written by Shaw.

Some big ticket items include the replacement of Parkinson Recreation Centre for $50 million and renewal of the waste water mains and facilities for $56 million but also $52 million for vehicles and equipment and $13 million for an expansion of Kelowna city hall.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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