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Osoyoos budget meeting sees scores of frustrated residents

The special meeting was to listen to residents about the record-high 39% tax hike
Former mayoral candidate Dustin Sikora addresses Osoyoos Mayor and Council during a special meeting on Jan. 16 over the town’s budget. (Town of Osoyoos - YouTube)

The work on satisfying Osoyoos citizens’ concerns about sky high taxes for 2024 is only one small step closer to being finished after a special meeting on Jan. 16.

The meeting included a presentation from the town in response to requests from citizens for better education on the pressures the budget is facing, as well as to answer many questions raised in the community about particular topics.

The over two-hour-long meeting went fairly smoothly with only a few minor interruptions that were quickly quieted as close to 20 different people spoke and shared their concerns.

On Jan. 9, the town council rescinded the adoption of the 2024 budget, which had included a 37 per cent property tax increase, and over 100 per cent increases to sewer and water costs.

Under that budget, the combined tax bill for the average home in Osoyoos would go from $3,852.45 in 2023 to $5,366.49 in 2024 under the proposed 2024 budget.

Council and staff opened the meeting with promises to find ways to improve the budget, admitting that there were some things they had missed.

READ MORE: Residents vent concerns before Osoyoos rescinds adoption of 37% tax hike

The presentation from CAO Rod Risling, which can be viewed on the Town of Osoyoos YouTube page, also laid out some of the particular pressures that the town can’t avoid. Those include aging infrastructure that is coming to the end of life and starting to fail, inflationary increases and changes in legislation which includes what is considered acceptable levels of water quality.

Despite the efforts from the town and councillors, the speakers were not mollified and many expressed their ongoing frustrations with the handling of the budget.

A few voices did speak out and offer thanks to the town and council for their efforts, but they were in a small minority.

While many of the speakers simply vented frustrations over communication and the increases to their tax bills, there were others who offered suggestions that ranged from axing funding to Destination Osoyoos to cutting down on funding to the cemetery by saying that many people either choose cremation or could be stacked atop one another to save space and costs.

Multiple speakers also pointed to the costs attached to the influx in tourists that the community receives each year, and called for more ways to get those seasonal visitors to pay for their impacts on the community’s infrastructure, whether through increasing the rates charged to hotels and short-term rentals or by levying some additional form of visitor-based tax.

At the end of the meeting, no changes were introduced directly to the budget, but it was promised that there would be further meetings in February as it came back to council for further discussion before its required passage in March.

Mayor Sue McKortoff noted that she and the other councillors had been taking notes through the night, and that there would be further answers to questions raised provided to the public.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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