Vernon council received its first Christmas present from a not-so-secret Santa Claus during its regular meeting Monday, Nov. 8.
Director of financial services Deborah Law handed each council member the annual proposed five-year financial plan in a huge white binder.
“Merry Christmas to us,” joked Coun. Akbal Mund.
Inside the binder, council has been given three options to mull over prior to discussing the 2022-26 plan on Nov. 29 and 30.
Option 1 is a proposed taxation increase of eight per cent for 2022.
“The 2022 proposed operating increase, excluding the RCMP Contract budget, is at two per cent as directed by council during the June 21, 2021 meeting,” said Law.
The city’s RCMP contract cost is expected to rise by over $1 million or 2.32 per cent.
Law said including an infrastructure levy increase, a remaining estimate of 2022 non-market change and the 2021 approved service level increase for a current planner position gets the city to eight per cent, the “high end” to an increase she estimated earlier this year for council.
Council passed two resolutions in the 2021 budget talks that will affect the 2022 discussions, including directing administration to amend the current planner position funding source for 2021 from taxation to the development excess reserve, and that for 2022 and beyond, the position be funded from taxation.
Council also directed administration to amend an additional $75,000 funding source for the O’Keefe Ranch grant from taxation to the prior year uncommitted, unexpended balance reserve.
“As a result, the 2022 budget includes a tax supported grant to the O’Keefe Historical Society for $50,000, consistent with prior years, and a current planner position in the amount of $116,610 which will also be funded by taxation,” said Law.
The other two options are for smaller tax hikes.
Option two for 2022 includes deferring for one year the purchase of three light-duty response vehicles for Vernon Fire Rescue Services and transferring $350,000 to the fire apparatus reserve. That would bring the proposed taxation down to 7.2 per cent.
The third option would pause the city’s infrastructure levy for 2022, start it again in 2023 and then extend it for one more year, ending in 2024. This would be due to service level changes council agreed to consider and the significant increase in the RCMP contract costs for next year.
Along with an amendment to capital projects being presented to council during the upcoming deliberations, the proposed property tax hike would be 5.31 per cent.