Vernon council has hammered out the 2017 budget after two days of meetings.

Vernon council has hammered out the 2017 budget after two days of meetings.

Tax hike approved by Vernon council

Politicians wrapped up meetings Thursday with 3.65 per cent tax increase

Two days of talks haven’t impacted the bottom line for Vernon taxpayers.

Council entered the 2017 deliberations Wednesday with a proposed 3.6 per cent tax increase, and they wrapped up Thursday with 3.65 per cent.

“I’m happy with the process,” said Mayor Akbal Mund.

“There are a lot of items important to the community. Council did a good job of balancing  wants and needs.”

The 3.65 per cent tax hike includes 1.75 per cent for operating expenses and 1.9 per cent for infrastructure.

Some of the spending includes $50,000 for improvements to a lake access although a site has not been determined yet.

Staff was also directed to bring back a report early in the new year that outlines the cost for developing 10 lake accesses as well as nine lots on Lakeshore Road.

“I’d like us to be a little more aggressive with the lake accesses,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

Council has also supported the $13 million capital budget that will renew roads, pipes and other infrastructure.

Among the projects that got the green light was rehabilitation of Kalamalka Lake Road from 14th Avenue to the Coldstream border. It will include a multi-use path.

Beyond infrastructure, the city’s 2017 budget calls for a $478,915 hike to the RCMP, largely because of two additional officers.

Four residents spoke during public input sessions, including Barry Beardsell, a former councillor.

“The city has built up reserves like slush funds,” said Beardsell. “That is taxpayers’ money and it belongs to existing taxpayers.”

Beardsell also targeted additional staff in some departments.

“You’re going back on the old curve of hiring and hiring,” he said.

Ongoing city funding for O’Keefe Ranch also came under fire.

“If O’Keefe Ranch is so special, ask the tourism committee to pay the money out of the hotel (room tax) fund or shut the place down,” he said.

Cunningham took aim at Beardsell’s comments.

“It’s disheartening to hear that things are going to hell in a handbasket,” she said.

“A lot of time and effort has gone into the budget and I’m very pleased with it.”

Budget bylaws must still be approved by council.