West Kelowna saves some of tax windfall, spends some on more cops

WEST KELOWNA - Better-than-expected growth has given West Kelowna a half-million-dollar tax windfall from 2017, leaving city councillors to argue over how to spend it — or not.

Chief administrative officer Jim Zaffino told councillors expected growth of 1.6 per cent in tax revenue actually came in at 3.11 per cent giving them $437,500 extra in revenues.

In December, West Kelowna approved a property tax increase of 2.58 percent which Zaffino said could be lowered further or kept the same depending on council’s wishes.

To make it easier, Zaffino laid out some options including transfering the entire amount into a reserve fund that could be used for either capital or operating expenses.

Another would leave property taxes the same but the money used to hire two reserve police officers for the West Kelowna RCMP detachment along with complimentary equipment including two police vehicles.

Coun. Duane Ophus agreed with hiring the two reservists but pointed out there would be consequences.

“If we hire reservists to do lots more traffic work, there will be lots more fines, don’t speed or you will be contributing to provincial revenues,” Ophus warned. “There will be a lot of presence on the street based on experience from the past and a lot of complaints to council from innocent people being caught speeding.”

In the end, council voted to spread it around, spending $120,000 to hire two reserve policing officers as soon as possible and another $84,500 for vehicles and related equipment.

Another $116,500 will be put in reserve while the final $116,500 will go toward lowering the property tax increase just a little but more.

As part of the motion, another $320,000 will be allocated to funding two full time RCMP officers in 2019.

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