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Proposed tax increase swells again

Advance training and recruitment of volunteer firefighters for the new Predator Ridge station has caused the proposed tax increase to climb. The fire hall is expected to go out to tender this Spring.
Image Credit: SOURCE/ City of Vernon
January 29, 2013 - 10:41 AM

Vernon's budget plan is evolving, and it isn't finished yet. Council has voted to raise the proposed tax increase to 4.7%, which equates to $53 for the average homeowner.

Coun. Bob Spiers is adamant the city needs to find a way to keep the increase to a minimum.

"I'm not too happy with the tax increase," Spiers told InfoTel News. "I'll be working on ideas over the next few weeks to reduce it."

Spiers says it will be awhile before the tax figure is set in stone, but early council deliberations are essential in preparing for an April 15 deadline.

"Oh yes, things will be changing," Spiers says, noting the city's core services review, conducted by KPMG, could offer cost-saving ideas. Spiers was one of the councillors who initially pushed for a review of the city's core services, because "the city was going to burn through its cash." Results from the review are expected in March, and will highlight areas where the city could trim operations.

The proposed tax inflation is the result of changes to two financial areas council has been waiting to decide on. Terasen Gas Franchise fees of $147,728 and $40,000 for firefighter recruitment and training have upped the increase.

There had been a possibility of deferring the $40,000 funding until next year, as the construction of the new Predator Ridge fire station—where the firefighters would be based out of—was uncertain. But fire chief Keith Green said the firehall could be finished by the fall, at which point they would want trained volunteer firefighters ready to go.

Coun. Catherine Lord didn't want to see the $40,000 cut out of this year's plan. "We're talking about $1.50 a year for taxpayers," she said.

Spiers says there will be another public input session, likely in Februrary, for citizens to speak their minds on the budget proposals.

—Charlotte Helston

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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