Final tax rate, panhandler bylaw back on council's agenda

City council will be asked to finalize the 2018 budget at its meeting this afternoon.

There's good news for property owners who are expecting a tax increase of 3.6% - as that's now been reduced to 2.99%.

The main reason for that is debt interest charges that were cheaper than expected, along with higher revenues from Fortis gas fees and the city's other investments.

With more wiggle room than expected, the city is adding some expenditures that need council's approval.

A big one is $425,000 for the third phase of Rutland Centennial Park development.

There's also plans to hire four more bylaw officers, and go through maintenance work on Chapman Parkade.

The proposed tax increase of 2.99% would add about $47 to the average tax bill, and equal a bill of $1990

The city is doing some backpedalling, when it comes to controversial elements of a bylaw on panhandling.

Last month, council heard a pitch to open up the possibility of fining people who give up spare change, or give bottles away outside of recycling depots.

But after sending it back to staff for further review, council will debate a recommendation today that would eliminate that idea.

Instead, a public communications campaign would be launched to educate people on better ways to support the city's homeless population.

A big part of the proposal was the current state of Kirschner Road, a street that's prompted more than 200 complaints in the last two years.

However, the city has confirmed that the bottle depot's lease expires in the fall, which the landlord does not plan on renewing.

Another change in plan comes on the issue of buskers, which were also included in the bylaw.

The original proposal was to give officers the ability to fine musicians playing outside marked busk stops in the downtown core.

Staff are now asking for the chance to further consult with Festivals Kelowna and the arts community, before reporting back.