Vernon’s proposed 2018 budget is focused on public safety and enabling a “collective inter-governmental response to people within our community that are in need.”
City chief administrative officer Will Pearce addressed council Tuesday, saying staff is proposing an overall tax hike of 6.38 per cent, with 2.91 per cent of that going towards a request from the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP for six new officers at a cost of slightly more than $1 million.
A 1.9 per cent hike is aimed to cover infrastructure costs and a proposed 1.57 per cent increase is aimed at operations.
The collective inter-government response, said Pearce, “does not come without cost and without impact on municipal property tax rates.”
Pearce said the 2018 operating budgets for all divisions, including the RCMP detachment, has been held to a 1.54 per cent tax rate increase, well within council’s direction of 1.9 per cent. The city will enjoy further savings on MSP premiums as they are being reduced by 50 per cent effective Jan. 1.
While the proposed budget will basically maintain past service levels, community growth and the increasing complexity of issues such as policing, enforcement, fire response and statutory requirements are leading to a gradual deterioration in core services.
New revenues predicted due to growth are pegged at approximately $400,000 with nearly $172,000 of that earmarked for the base funding for the second of two RCMP officer positions originally approved by council in 2016.
A total of $40,000 of that projected growth revenue is pegged to expand the paid per-call and paid on-call firefighter program; $35,000 will go toward economic development; $20,000 is set aside to support the community wildfire protection plan – “excellent value for the money,” said Pearce – and $60,000 will fund responsibilities transferred from the Regional District of North Okanagan’s sub-regional parks program.
The proposed budget allocates the balance of 2016 unexpended, uncommitted year-end dollars to a small number of one-time costs including $90,000 to Fire Hall 2 renovations to enhance the use of the facility for emergency services; $60,000 to abandoned camp reserve for cleanup of homeless camps and nearly $85,000 to fund the 2018 summer seasonal bylaw enforcement program.
Council will explore the proposed budget during two days of meetings Nov. 29 and 30.
“The proposed 6.38 per cent hike is the ultimate limit,” said Coun. Bob Spiers. “We’ll try to whittle it down a little bit more. I’ve got a few things in my back pocket hopefully that will take it down. It’s not going to go below six (per cent) anyway.”