Few changes now anticipated for Vernon budget
There appears to be little to prevent a slight hike in Vernon taxes.
On Monday, council endorsed spending reductions in the 2011 financial plan while restoring transfers to reserves. That has led to a 0.21 per cent tax hike.
“It’s a daunting task and I commend staff for what they’ve done,” said Coun. Shawn Lee.
“I’m comfortable with what’s been presented.”
The proposed savings total $717,380, including funding fire dispatch from reserves, reducing maintenance and bylaw coverage, delaying hiring and eliminating a vacant part-time position.
A total of $846,949 has also been placed into reserves for vehicles and equipment, information technology and fire vehicles.
Coun. Bob Spiers believes some of the budget’s revenue figures have been underestimated, and he’s concerned the budget process is largely finished.
“I would hope we’re not suggesting we wouldn’t look further to bringing it down,” he said of taxes.
Spiers’ colleagues, though, prepare willing to take the draft financial plan to the public for input.
“There’s always room for movement but I’d like to see one per cent,” said Coun. Jack Gilroy, who believes a reduction in taxes could ultimately lead to significant hikes in the future to improve infrastructure.
“People don’t mind one per cent now because they want huge increases for catchup,” he said.
Council was warned by staff that it should be putting upwards of $13 million a year aside to help address the infrastructure deficit.
“Streets should be repaired far more frequently,” said Leon Gous, chief administrative officer.
“You really are behind from a prudent, long-term strategy. You are not in as financially healthy situation as we’d like the city to be in.”
Lee has heard that the amount of money required to bring all infrastructure up to standard is about $125 million.
Mayor Wayne Lippert defends the approach being taken with the current budget.
“Nobody wants to leave the public for the future with a big budget and catchup, but this budget reflects the times we’re in,” he said of the recession.