West Kelowna looking at ways to dig deeper into residents' pockets - InfoNews

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West Kelowna looking at ways to dig deeper into residents' pockets

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December 10, 2018 - 1:30 PM

WEST KELOWNA - Taxes could increase by as much as five per cent in West Kelowna plus residents could face higher gas and electrical bills in order to send even more money to the city.

Budget documents going to West Kelowna city council tomorrow, Dec. 11, give councillors a number of options for catching up on that city’s infrastructure deficit, or to levy a modest three per cent tax increase.

While no numbers are attached detailing the size of the deficit – unlike Kelowna with a $477 million deficit by 2027 – the report does suggest a couple of options to bring in more money.

“While other municipalities had years to prepare for major infrastructure upgrades, West Kelowna is turning 11 years old and has a lot of catching up to do,” the report by chief administrative officer Jim Zaffino states.

It’s expected that new construction will bring in the equivalent of 2.4 per cent in new tax revenues and Zaffino recommends adding another three per cent as a general tax increase.

If approved, that will bring in about $1.7 million on top of the $31 million in taxes collected in 2018.

By going to four or five per cent, that could add either $327,000 or $654,000 in extra revenue that could be put into reserve funds for future infrastructure improvements.

Another option would be to impose franchise fees on gas and electrical utilities that could bring in $1.8 million a year – or about the same amount of money projected by a three per cent tax hike plus revenue from new growth.

The catch with the franchise fee, however, is that it has to be approved by voters – who would end up paying the money though the fees rather than taxes, or both.

Franchise fees can be imposed on gas and electrical utilities that add the cost to customer’s bills then turn the money over to the city.

That idea was rejected by the previous city council on June 12, 2018. But given that this council has already reversed another decision by the last council and agreed to lobby the province to build two interchanges on Highway 97, there is no guarantee that the franchise fee decision won’t also be reversed.

Zaffino points out in his report that West Kelowna is the only city in B.C. that does not collect franchise fees.

The report does not talk about whether a franchise fee would be considered as an addition to a tax increase or instead of.

His report indicates that the budget will simply be introduced tomorrow with a full review happening Jan. 15, 2019 followed by a public consultation meeting Jan. 30.

If approved, a three per cent tax increase for the average home worth 600,996 is $58.11 per year, taking municipal taxes to $1,936.88 from $1,1994.99. Going to four per cent would increase taxes by $77.48 and five per cent hikes taxes by $96.84 per year.

Some of the additional spending council will be asked to consider for 2019 includes:

  • $2 million for 27.83 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff requested.
  • $104,000 for year-round private security patrols of the Westbank Town Centre.
  • $800,000 for road rehabilitation.
  • $100,000 to design Gellatly Road upgrades from the Westbank Town Centre to Gellatly Bay. It will include a cycling and pedestrian corridor and two roundabouts. Plans are to design the upgrades in 2019 for construction in 2020. This is the city’s number one priority to improve arterial roads.
  • $200,000 to design improvements to the city’s number two arterial road priority, the upgrading of Glenrosa Road from Glen Abbey to McGinnis. Plans are for construction in 2021.
  • $2 million to replace the Gellatly Road bridge over Powers Creek.
  • $1.2 million for sidewalks, street lighting and drainage on Ross Road and another $700,000 for sewer upgrades.
  • $100,000 to update the Official Community Plan that was adopted in 2011.
  • $90,000 for a Recreation Facilities Master Plan that has been discussed since 2015.
  • $1 million to replace a water main to be used by the new indoor soccer dome.
  • $3.2 million for a Glenrosa Water reservoir.

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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