New provisional tax increase at 4.04 percent

Kelowna

Kelowna city council has reached an agreement on a provisional budget for 2021.

After hours and hours of review, council has pared down the projected property tax increase from 4.27% to 4.04%.

That means homeowners will pay on average an extra $85 dollars next year, depending on your property assessment.

Mayor Colin Basran calls it fiscally prudent and one he will have no problem defending to taxpayers.

Two changes were made that contributed to the taxation decrease.

Council agreed to fund the newly created Champion of the Environment staff position and a Building Master Plan from reserves rather than taxation.

Divisional Director Ryan Smith broke down the $200,000 cost for the environmental term position.

“There's about $125,000 of salary plus the loaded benefits, which take it up to about $146,000 and the other $50,000 is actually a consulting budget that would go along with this position. Often times there's additional consulting needs even to produce a professional report so it's giving this position the tools to go along with the task we're giving them,” said Smith.

Pulling from the city’s Environmental Contingency Fund will leave it with just over $100,000 after two years. It was noted on Monday that council will have to develop a plan for replenishing the reserve to fund future projects.

City manager Doug Gilchrist suggested council may utilize any year-end surplus.

The budget prioritizes community safety with the largest operating budget investment at $43.6 million, including 14 new safety positions.

On the ground in 2022, the eight RCMP officers and six civilian support staff carry a price tag of $1.9-million.

Keeping in mind tourism and a projected population increase of 50,000 people by 2040, Gilchrist said the addition of officers will be required annually to catch up and keep up.

“If you think of a 2 - 3% growth rate, a 200 person compliment that we acknowledge is probably somewhat understaffed already, you're four to six officers a year, every year just to keep up with the growing community once we hit a threshold where we're satisfied that it's fully resourced appropriately,” said Gilchrist.

19 RCMP officers have been approved since the release of the Griffiths Report last year.

That report suggested the city hire upwards of 56 new officers by 2025.

$100,000 in funding for the Journey Home Society will remain a Priority 2 item until further notice.

However, council may decide to fund it before final budget after hearing that they may never acquire charitable status.

“And if that is the case, I really think that they're going to have to present to us how they would move forward in the future because a lot of the original conception of this was based on the fact that they would be able to attract foundation grants, other government grants and private investments. So, if that's not going to be the case I think that's an important part of what we need to hear in the New Year,” said Councillor Luke Stack.

Funding would enhance resources for coordinated access and data integration while supporting the youth strategy A Way Home and similar priorities.

The item has a 0.07% impact on taxation and would bring the tax rate up to 4.11%.