Greater Vernon looks to raise taxes

Greater Vernon residents will be paying more for parks, recreation, culture and water.

Greater Vernon residents will be paying more for parks, recreation, culture and water.

It was suggested that a five per cent tax increase in 2016 could be possible during a Greater Vernon Advisory Committee meeting Thursday.

“We will try to keep it minimal but we’re not expecting no increase,” said Stephen Banmen, Regional District of North Okanagan general manager of finance.

However, director Mike Macnabb is concerned about providing possible figures to the public so early in the budget process.

“There will be some areas where we want more but there could be efficiencies,” he said.

“People shouldn’t be taking away that we’re painting a big five per cent across everything.”

Staff is recommending a two per cent hike to water rates to cover inflation and capital projects, but director Jim Garlick wants to investigate options.

“Can we look at one and zero (per cent) with priorities in there?” said Garlick in terms of what is needed to operate the water utility.

What ever the rate increase is set at, it will not include most items within the master water plan as that document is currently being reviewed.

“Two per cent is the status quo. We’re not moving forward and we’re not falling back. We’re keeping the ship going,” said Macnabb.

In terms of parks and recreation, a budget focus will be maintenance of new assets, such as the athletics park, and planning for new assets, including the rail trail and the Camp Hurlburt property. The cultural plan could also have implications for the budget as could a successful referendum for a new arena.

Budget deliberations will also take a look at how much money to put into reserves for development of the rail trail and future initiatives.

“It shows we are proactive because we know these projects are coming up,” said director Akbal Mund of trying to ease the burden on taxpayers.

Reserves also means GVAC will have money available if senior governments provide grants for infrastructure.

“If we don’t have reserves, we lose opportunities as they come forward,” said Macnabb.

The regional district’s 2016 budget is expected to be adopted March 2.