Vernon considers tax hike

Council met Thursday and instructed staff to start off with a possible 3.7 per cent tax increase as part of developing the 2014 budget

There are early indications of how Vernon taxpayers may get hit in the wallet.

Council met Thursday and instructed staff to start off with a possible 3.7 per cent tax increase as part of developing the 2014 budget.

“It’s just a framework to direct discussion,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

“There are a lot of details to discuss.”

The 3.7 per cent includes 1.8 per cent for overall operations (most of it for collective agreements) and 1.9 per cent for infrastructure, which is a mandated city policy. There are no new net employees planned.

If the 3.7 per cent hike were to be ultimately approved, that would result in an extra $39.50 in taxes for a home assessed at $322,149.

“We are talking about very broad, generic numbers at this point,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer. “The goal is to have no impact on public service levels. There is a push for efficiencies.”

However, it was suggested that the operations department may have to consider reducing some programs to stay within budget.

But that concept generated some immediate opposition.

“I won’t be supportive of getting rid of the chipping program,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe.

City staff have developed a proposal to possibly lower administration costs for maintaining Greater Vernon sub-regional parks. That process could bring a possible tax hike down to 2.8 per cent if it is implemented.

“We are working on means to reduce the total tax bill with a focus on pushing down overhead costs while maintaining levels of service,” said Pearce.

Budget discussions will continue at Vernon city hall into the new year.