Draft budget targeting tax hike

Vernon residents can expect to pay more in taxes while some city staff are losing their jobs

Vernon residents can expect to pay more in taxes while some city staff are losing their jobs.

The draft 2014 budget, which was presented to council Monday, includes staff reductions and a top-end tax hike of 3.7 per cent.

“We continue to get our fiscal house in order,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

The 3.7 per cent tax hike is based on 1.8 per cent for operations and 1.9 per cent for infrastructure.

However, Pearce cautions that 3.7 per cent — or $31 for the typical home — is just a starting point and that number could be reduced as deliberations continue.

Full-time equivalent city employees will go from 249.8 in 2013 to 246.6 in 2014.

The loss includes a bylaw compliance officer, a corporate services worker, a building inspector and three positions in parks (two are currently vacant).

But a parks planner position has been created while an economic development planner is being hired.

Council will discuss the budget during workshops from Jan. 15 to 17 and then three readings for the budget bylaw are expected Jan. 27.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky says the draft plan is consistent with council’s directions and he isn’t sure if there can be much movement from a 3.7 per cent tax increase.

“There’s been a lot of work in the last year to bring things in tightly,” he said.

Coun. Bob Spiers will be spending the next few weeks going over the budget proposal in detail.

“I would always like to see it come down,” he said of a tax increase.

“If we can get more reductions, why shouldn’t we?”

The 2014 budget will reflect the fact that the city is taking over parks and recreation services from the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“Vernon property owners will see a dramatic increase in local property tax rates, in the order of 18 to 20 per cent. This should be offset by an equally significant reduction in regional district requisition. It should be very near a wash,” said Pearce.