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Low public turn out at budget meeting as Kamloops closer to finalizing budget

Public attendance was low at the Feb. 28 public meeting on the Kamloops 2017 budget.

KAMLOOPS - The public had an opportunity last night to have a say on the city’s budget and how much property taxes will go up, but few took the chance to share their thoughts.

Roughly 30 residents attended the public meeting at the Sandman Centre, along with city administration and councillors. That's significantly fewer than the nearly 160 that turned out for a fall meeting on the same subject.

While there was a low turnout, Mayor Peter Milobar did face questions from a half-dozen members of the public, questioning the reason for this year’s estimated 2.67 per cent rise in property taxes.

“I think it’s indicative of what you hear when you’re chatting to people in the street or in the grocery store,” Milobar says. “They’re valid questions people have of wanting to understand the budget process.”

While the meeting was intended to focus more on supplemental budget items, like upgrades to the Sandman Centre itself, attendees focused more on the over all rise in taxes.

Property taxes are expected to rise by 2.67 per cent for the average homeowner, but individual homeowners will be impacted by the province’s assessment on their home, which could cause the dollar amount they pay to rise by significantly more. Milobar pointed out the majority of the 2.54 per cent tax increase is from costs rising in the base budget due to increases in contracts like RCMP or firefighters, which the city has no control over.

The topic of snow removal was also broached at yesterday’s council meeting, when councillors asked public works director Jenn Fretz about the budget for service. The city will be looking at how it does things before snowfall next season, Fretz told councillors.

Coun. Dieter Duty says the biggest concern he heard last night was about the tax increase. While he appreciates the concern for taxpayers, he says the city needs to raise money to continue with the current level of service, though how that’s collected could be changed in the future.

“Somebody said that with respect to water meters that instead of having a threshold at 600 litres perhaps we could drop it to 400,” Duty says. “And that’s something that council may want entertain at some time.

Milobar says while speaking to councillors and staff this time of year won’t likely trigger changes to this years budget, it could create discussions that will be reflected in next year’s budget.

“You get enough people mentioning or bringing up the same want for a reduced level of service in one are or another and next thing you know that’s how change happens,” he says. "We’re always open of to those conversations.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 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 © iNFOnews, 2017

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