Citizens of Vernon will likely be facing a higher tax bill in 2019.
Vernon council unofficially began its budget deliberations Tuesday as financial officer Debra Law handed council a 170-plus-page binder with the proposed budget, introduced to council and the gallery by administrator Will Pearce.
At the outset, the proposed tax increase is 5.57 per cent, which includes 1.9 per cent for capital projects.
For the operating budget, money that city administration needs to deliver all the programs and services for the community is 3.67 per cent, and inside that, 1.41 per cent is to be used to fill in the use of one-time monies that were needed in 2017.
“It’s not a tax rate increase,” said Pearce of the proposed hike. “It’s a necessary increase in tax-generated revenues. The 5.57 per cent won’t necessarily be the tax rate increase on an individual’s home or business, and that’s usually somewhat less.”
The budget, said Pearce, deals with a broad range of challenges while essentially “clearing the stage” for the new council, which includes Mayor Victor Cumming and rookie councillors Kari Gares and Kelly Fehr.
The proposed budget takes a balanced and carefully considered approach to protect the integrity of municipal infrastructure.
“Delivering recreation and parks services highly valued by residents,” said Pearce. “Focusing on public safety through police, bylaw and fire services personnel. Supporting and working with local agencies and provincial ministries to help those in need, particularly in the pursuit of housing, while continuing an emphasis on economic development, new investment, business retention and local job creation.”
The proposal calls for a number of modest increases to operations costs as capital upgrades started in 2018 come to completion and operational obligations are realized. These include Hurlburt Park, Lakeshore Park, Foothills Ravine Trail, Beachcomber Lake Access and the bike skills park at Becker Park.
There is a number of one-time projects requiring one-time support, and a modest draw $56,000 on the RCMP Reserve (with a current balance of more than $2.1 million) would fund three pilot projects for downtown cleanup, sharps (needles) response and disposal, and an anti-graffiti tag team.
Law said the proposed 2019 budget has a net operating increase of 1.2 per cent prior to consideration of service level change requests.
“This was accomplished by division managers examining all opportunities to increase revenues and reduce operating costs while still maintaining a similar level of service as in prior years,” said Law.
The city, said Pearce, operates under exceptionally tight budgets and held operating budget increases to less than 1.8 per cent for eight consecutive records. Make it nine if council approves the budget.
“The proposed 2019 budget maintains this restraint approach,” said Pearce.
Council will deliberate the proposed budget over the next few months before formally adopting the plan in the spring.