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Council candidates focus on municipal revenue
If money makes the world go around, how would future councillors drum up municipal funds? The Western News surveyed Penticton council candidates about their views on three topics, allowing them to respond in 200 words for each answer to get a sense on their plan for the city in the next three years.
The second question posed to candidates was: Municipal development revenues continue to ebb as the building boom subsides. Apart from tourism, what areas do you think council should focus on to maintain or grow city revenue?
Below are the candidates’ answers, appearing in alphabetical order.
Burga Black — We can’t let our fiscal position get out of line if we are to expect progress in the next 10 to 20 years. Let’s restrain ourselves from spending what we don’t have.
We are in a current situation where our money is going out but none is coming in. This city’s decisions have impacted all our citizens. Change is necessary to produce growth in Penticton. We have been going in the wrong direction. We can’t afford any more luxury condos that are standing empty and unable to contribute to our economy. We can’t close down any more amenities like the waterslides that actually brought in some funds. We tried to reach too many summits all at once. We must be more discriminating in what business we let into Penticton — if they have nothing to offer this community, we don’t want them.
All the above are ebbing our building boom. Our most urgent priority is affordable house that local people can build, which provides them with work and a place to live.
Jeannie Cavallo — In order to maintain and improve city revenue, we need to further eliminate wasteful spending. An example is the SOEC. The management contract is up soon. We need a better contract or a better partner. In addition, the economic investment zones I spoke of in the last question are vital. They encourage new business development as well as improvements/expansion within the zones. The city benefits long term.
Poonan Chahal — I am proud to say that we are a community that relies heavily on our tourism sector. However, Penticton has many astonishing attributes. We are proud to have places like the SS Sicamous, Munson Mountain, the SOEC and our newly developed community centre. If we were to increase the use of such facilities by locals, we could increase the revenue in our city.
Frank Conci — Improving the business climate in Penticton has to be the number one item on council’s to-do list. I have detailed a number of measures from my website (www.frankconci.com) that are vital to producing a strong economy.
Freeze taxes and fees for the next six years to provide certainty and encouragement for existing and future businesses. Re-evaluate our relationship with the RDOS and ensure Penticton taxpayers are getting fair value for money. Develop a long-term strategic plan for community assets. Currently the library, the old Memorial Arena and McLaren Park Arena (as examples) get annual Band-Aids but no long-term commitment for planning.
Set the stage for growth; fix negative perceptions of City Hall and find land for commercial and industrial expansion. Introduce strategic marketing in Penticton. Let’s market Penticton more as a place to live as opposed to just a place to visit.
Jason Cox — There is a major crisis in Penticton right now. Development permits in 2011 are down dramatically compared to previous years. As a result, not only are development revenues for the city down, so are construction-related jobs.
I was part of the group that originally created the economic investment zone program, which was used by a majority of the developments that have occurred in Penticton this year. I think council should look for ways to expand and enhance this program as a tool for the economic development office and planning department can use to attract development in the city.
Additionally, I would push for City Hall to create more industrial land in order to lower the cost of land based on increased supply and to have more land inventory for the EDO and realtors to market and attract industry.
Finally, I think council should look to bring commercial property tax rates down overall in order to make Penticton a more affordable place to do business. A more competitive tax regime encourages new investment, which in turn actually leads to increased tax revenue from the new development as well as increased employment and the spinoff benefits associated with that such as increased housing market activity.
David Greenwood — I believe we need to focus on attracting and supporting new business, industry and investment in our community, which would in turn increase our tax base and in turn our city revenue.
Wes Hopkin — One mechanism for raising revenue could be instituting a user-fee structure that differentiates between Penticton residents and members of neighbouring communities to address the fact that non-residents pay reduced levels of taxation for those facilities or services.
However, a more fundamental economic driver for our community is going to be population growth and we should put a strong focus on attracting new residents. The more people want to live here, the greater demand there will be for housing, and the higher property values will rise to help grow city revenues. The spillover effects of the growth in businesses to help service that new population also helps generate revenue for the city and attracts even more growth.
Andrew Jakubeit — We need to put more emphasis on economic development (creating and keeping jobs), which is a lot harder than it seems and is difficult to measure. Everyone has had to relook at how they spend their money which affects the entire community.
One avenue overlooked is renewing or reigniting community pride: shopping locally, volunteering for a festival/event/group or giving philanthropically.
We need to partner and create more programming with the OK College Centre of Excellence relative to our market. Being a leader in developing businesses that create or market green technologies and sustainable building principles might be a good example of that partnership that will create clean and high-paying jobs.
Lynn Kelsey — Encourage industry and make sure that there is a fair distribution of taxation.
Randy Kirkoski — Attract new businesses to either start up or move their existing business to the city by offering incentives for them.
An example could be a graduated tax over a specified period that would help with their start-up costs. Work on finding ways to promote Penticton to the private, commercial and association sectors to hold their meetings or conventions here.
Helena Konanz — Every municipality in North America is grappling with this problem right now. My experience working in cities around the world will help me to come up with creative ideas and solutions while on council.
One avenue for growing revenue is to expand and promote the Centre of Excellence and Okanagan College. This facility has put Penticton on the map not only for its educational opportunities, but also for its green technology. The college growth means more jobs with higher salaries, and more youth staying in the community, which will help stop the brain drain in Penticton.
David Korinetz — We need long-term, year-round jobs such as light manufacturing or technology jobs. When residents make enough money, they can afford to attend events at the events centre and use the services at the community centre.
We also may need to revisit the prison issue, assuming it ever presents itself again. Penticton will always be a tourist destination and we need to continue promoting that too.
Gary Leaman — 1. Development of wind, solar and hydro electricity. This is a significant opportunity for Penticton and our civic-owned electric utility. This needs to be a priority. In addition to being a strong potential revenue source through the sale of surplus power, it will help foster economic growth and household affordability through lower utility costs.
2. Sale of surplus city land. The city has countless bits and pieces of property for which there is no identified use or long-term strategy. Strategic selling of some properties (not at fire sale prices as seen recently), will provide new property tax revenue, help foster development and rid the city of ongoing maintenance costs.
3. Stronger ties with the Okanagans. We share this valley. We need to work more closely with our neighbours to our mutual economic and social benefit.
Garry Litke — Currently, residents of Naramata, West Bench, Kaleden and OK Falls access Penticton’s recreation facilities (pool, arenas, fields). An estimated 20 to 25 per cent of users of Penticton’s facilities come from these areas. While I support the use of recreational facilities to promote healthy and active lifestyles, it is unreasonable to expect Penticton taxpayers to pay for the initial construction of the facilities as well as the ongoing operating costs while the non-residents do not share that burden but enjoy the facilities.
Currently only West Bench pays an annual fee of $20,000 to the city. Penticton could generate more revenue from non-resident recreation users through a two-tiered system. Just like many retail outlets, there could be one price for regular customers and a discount for members (Penticton taxpayers). “Membership” could be validated by something as simple as the Penticton Library Card where this two-tiered system already exists.
A two-tiered system for the use of recreational facilities would be of economic benefit to Penticton and a benefit to non-residents, too. As financial partners in Penticton’s recreational system, non-residents would then be entitled to have their opinions heard in this area.
Kevin Noonan — Municipal development revenues continue to drop partly because the boom is over and partly because City Hall is setting incentives so high that no moneys will come from new businesses for years. This is known as giving away the farm.
Incentives need to be implemented properly. In the end, bringing businesses and jobs to Penticton will bring the city revenues up.
Mike Pearce — I had thought the new proposed correctional facility would have helped to build a sustainable economy but people did not want it. I tried though. I think there will be opportunities if it is located in the region, so we need to be on top of that to harvest what we can. We still have the main shopping centre, airport, court house and hospital, so we will reap some spin off.
We should also work closer with our existing industries to see how we can help them expand in their markets like we recently did with Normar and the property adjacent to the SOEC.
Judy Sentes — City council must do everything possible to nurture and grow economic development.
We have created economic zones and implemented incentives but we must be more dedicated in marketing the opportunity of Penticton for business investment. Targeting specific industries compatible to our locale would be my first priority and, I hope, that of our economic office.
John Vassilaki — A. A two-tier system for city facilities. One price for residents of Penticton and another higher price for non-residents.
B. Sell services to sub-region, for example, inspections, managing water or electrical and engineering services. We have the technology, so why not put it to good use to raise revenue.
Terry Yeatman — Development of the shoreline areas, i.e. new hotels and restaurants. Building of affordable housing for the under-55 age group.