Pencils being sharpened as tax hike balloons

Vernon budget discussions aim for tax range of zero to 2.3 per cent

Taxes are a moving target in Vernon.

Numerous items were added to the city’s proposed 2012 budget Monday morning, generating a potential tax hike of 8.5 per cent. But that figure had dropped to 6.3 per cent by later that afternoon.

“We will get lower than this,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

Council has a tax range of zero to 2.3 per cent and in an attempt to reach that, staff has been asked to bring back more information on expenditures and revenue.

Data is being sought on reserves, traffic fine revenue, salary levels and casino revenue.

“I’d like some options to get us within striking distance of 2.3 per cent,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

Among the items added to the budget Monday were renovating the current library for city staff offices, road rehabilitation on 25th Avenue and Silver Star Road, sidewalks on Alexis Park Drive and $80,000 for a core review of city services.

However, not everything made the cut. Abandoned was the third phase of the Polson Greenway on 29th Street and upgrades to the lake access on Delcliffe Road.

One area that was deferred was possibly increasing parking fees to put more money into coffers.

It was suggested that taking monthly parking from $35 to $60 would provide $138,000 in additional revenue.

“I wouldn’t support an increase to monthly parking until we have a substantially improved transit system,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

All aspects of downtown parking, including fees, are currently being reviewed.

A date hasn’t been set for the next budget discussion but it will occur once staff has compiled the information that has been requested.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky isn’t satisfied with a 6.3 per cent tax increase and he is pushing to have it lowered.

“We’ll be disappointed if we don’t knock three or four per cent off,” he said.

When asked if a zero per cent tax increase is possible, Sawatzky said, “That would be our dream. We have to see all of the facts to know what’s reasonable.”