After much deliberation on the 2021 budget, Vernon city council has endorsed a spending plan for next year.
The 2021 budget comes as part of the city’s 2021-2025 financial plan and comes with a tax increase of 2.13 per cent, the city said in a press release Tuesday evening.
Mayor Victor Cumming said council carefully considered the various financial impacts local residents and businesses have faced due to the pandemic.
“Council has endorsed a budget that is well-balanced and responsible, which maintains levels of service our citizens have come to rely upon, and provides financial stability for our taxpayers, where possible, as we move towards a period of local economic recovery,” Cumming said.
Next year’s budget will include a 1.79 per cent increase to annual operating expenses and a 0.34 per cent increase for a small number of new services and programs, as well as a few services carried forward from 2020.
Cumming said most of the programs and services that have been added to the operating budget are not new for the city.
“These programs include items such as the Anti-Tag Team, Folks on Spokes, the downtown overnight seasonal security program, and the weekly cleanup grant program,” Cumming said.
“All of these programs were previously funded on a temporary basis to gauge program performance and community impact. After receiving positive feedback from the community on each of them, council has committed to continuing the programs through the regular operating budget.”
The original proposed budget included a continuation of the ongoing infrastructure levy program — which would’ve added another 1.9 per cent to the tax burden. However, council chose to pause the infrastructure levy for one year to reduce the overall 2021 budget increase. Council directed that the levy resume in 2022 and then be extended by one year, to 2023.
The infrastructure levy was established in 2012 as a 10-year program, to provide funds to repair or replace aging infrastructure and establish a stronger foundation for future community needs, such as improvements to municipal roads, storm sewer management systems, public buildings and parks.
“By pausing the program for one year, we are able to provide some financial relief for our taxpayers, while still keeping our eye on the target to finish the program for the benefit of our community and its future,” Cumming explained.
The 2021 capital program includes $18.1 million in upcoming projects. Some of the larger projects include:
- Silver Star Road multi-use path between BX Elementary and Blackcomb Way – $3.4M
- 37th Avenue reconstruction between 29th Street and 30th Street – $2.25M
- City-wide drainage improvements – $1.9M
- 31st Street reconstruction between 35th Avenue and 39th Avenue – $1.85M
- The completion of the 29th and 30th Street new road and multi-use path connection at 39th Avenue (funded in 2019 and started in 2020)
“This has not been an easy year for any of us, and staff worked diligently to provide council with a lean budget that continues to meet the needs and expectations of our citizens,” Cumming said. “The City of Vernon is in a healthy financial position as we move towards a period of recovery and take the steps that are necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, achieve the priorities identified in Council’s Strategic Plan, and continue to serve our residents and businesses with excellent service.”
The five-year financial plan and 2021 budget are available on the city’s website at www.vernon.ca/budget-process.