Fee hikes and service cuts on City of Vernon budget agenda

Vernon residents could dig deeper for parking while fall leaves may be left sitting on the curb.

Beyond a potential 4.8 per cent tax hike, city council is considering a number of fee increases and service cuts as part of the 2013 budget.

“They (staff) have given us a shopping cart. We can pick and choose,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

Among the possible fee hikes are increasing parking meters from 50 cents to $1 an hour, while also charging more at the parkade and at outdoor lots. Parking fines could climb from $5 to $10 within 14 days.

Free car seat installation checks at the fire hall could be replaced by a $25 fee, while the city could recommend to the regional district that the loonie swim be bumped up to a toonie, generating $10,000 a year.

Along with revenue sources, council has been presented with possible areas to save money.

Among the potential cuts are cancelling leaf pickup and spring yard waste chipping. Other items mentioned for possible elimination are the Communities in Bloom program, heritage grants and the Social Planning Council contract.

Another prospect is scrapping $150,000 in support for O’Keefe Ranch but Lord is opposed.

“They are in an upwards movement out there and doing different marketing. I want to give them a chance,” said Lord, a former ranch manager.

Possible reductions in service could include summer road sweeping and clearing sidewalks of snow in excess of 50 millimetres.

City staff is seeking $1.1 million in new revenue or service cuts to handle financial challenges.

“Our reserves are too low and we’re not in a position to deal with circumstances we can’t plan for,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

“If we saw a road slippage, that could be about $500,000.”

In terms of a tax hike, staff has asked council to consider a 1.9 per cent or three per cent hike to bolster infrastructure reserves. If other spending is included, there could be a 4.8 per cent hike or an extra $55 for the average home.

“We’ve inherited a mismanaged asset and we need to put the wheels back on the wagon of aging infrastructure,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

“We need to increase taxes to build up funds to move the city forward.”

Coun. Bob Spiers won’t speculate on taxes.

“I don’t even want to think about it until we go through the entire budget process,” he said.



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