Range established for possible tax increase

A proposed tax freeze in Vernon could thaw out rather quickly.

A proposed tax freeze in Vernon could thaw out rather quickly.

On Monday, council established a preliminary tax increase range of zero to 2.3 per cent in 2012. But most officials admit some revenue hike will likely be required.

“We won’t end up at zero but it (range) shows we respect what’s going on in the community,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe of ongoing financial uncertainty.

“It gives direction to staff that we want a cost-saving budget.”

Coun. Bob Spiers points out that the budget is very preliminary at this time and figures will change before the document is adopted in the spring.

“It’s just a range to give them (city staff) some direction,” he said.

“It doesn’t show the public that the budget will be zero. The last few councils have said zero and we haven’t wound up with that.”

Staff suggested Monday that a four to six per cent tax hike would be needed to cover cost of living increases and basic services. Four per cent equates to $1 million.

“Four to six per cent is way too high,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

“Staff needs to look at cost savings as much as possible. With the euro in (turmoil), there could be a big impact here and our taxpayers won’t be able to tolerate much.”

Opposition to establishing a range came from Councillors Juliette Cunningham and Patrick Nicol.

“Without seeing the actual budget, it seems premature,” said Nicol of identifying specific figures.

That was also a concern for Cunningham, who is new to council along with Lord and Coun. Brian Quiring.

“I haven’t seen the budget. I don’t know what add-ons are coming,” said Cunningham, adding that she requires more information before she can make a decision on a potential tax increase.