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Preliminary tax increase set for West Kelowna

January 16, 2019 - 4:31 PM

WEST KELOWNA - West Kelowna residents will have a chance to sound off about a proposed 3.88 per cent tax increase on Feb. 20.

Council spent a long day yesterday, Jan. 15, going through its proposed 2019 budget. Staff had tabled a budget with a three per cent tax increase but had alternate recommendations for four and five per cent to help build reserves. The city’s long term plan directs staff to look at three per cent annual tax increases.

Mayor Gord Milsom told he recommended the 3.88 per cent because he felt that was about as much of an increase council would agree to. He will not be unhappy if the public pushes for more of an increase.

“The feedback I’ve received is that many, many residents realize the importance of putting money away for the replacement of roads and other infrastructure down the road so, we’ll just have to wait and see,” Milsom said. “I’ve calculated the difference between three per cent and 3.88 and it worked out to $1.42 a month on an average home.”

The final budget won’t be set until after the public input session on Feb. 20 and until after the final amount of revenue from new construction is known.

The budget does allow for the hiring of eight new firefighters, a few other city staff and one police officer. A number of councillors indicated they’re hoping to add a second police officer into the final budget. That won’t actually affect the 2019 tax rate since it’s not likely the RCMP will be able to provide the new officers until 2020.

The public information sessions in the past have only drawn about 40 residents, Milsom said. This one will also present the city’s Strategic Plan and council’s priorities for this term, so he’s hoping for a better turnout.

He also wants staff to take a more detailed look at the city’s infrastructure in order to have a more “scientific” basis to discuss the city’s infrastructure needs. The City of Kelowna added a 1.95 per cent infrastructure levy to this year’s taxes and plans a similar increase next year to deal with a $477 million infrastructure deficit.

West Kelowna staff were also asked to do more research into a proposed fee on the gas utilities as a possible revenue source. If that is adopted, it will likely take a year or more to put in place.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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