Penticton residents will be looking at an 8.7 per cent tax increase and restructuring of city departments when the 2024 budget releases in full on Oct. 23.
An overview of the budget was presented to council on Oct. 17 ahead of the full release and opening of public engagement on the budget.
The majority of the tax increase, six per cent of it, is being driven by the increase that was deferred out of 2022’s budget. In that budget, the previous council voted to defer a 10 per cent increase and cover the difference with surplus funds and COVID-19 grant funding.
The city still has $2.4 million in spending from that budget, which largely went towards additional RCMP and bylaw officers. Those funds still need to be covered by taxes to catch up with the deferral. The original plan was to do three per cent increasesover 2023, 2024 and 2025’s budget.
If council gives their approval to roll the full deferral increase into 2024 for the proposed 8.7 hike, that would equal about $15 a month ($175 per year) in higher taxes for the average residential property worth $699,290. The average business can expect to see their tax go up $57 a month.
Angela Campbell, the city’s director of finance, said that they had gone through line-by-line cutting items to make savings that would allow for the deferral to be shifted fully in 2024.
Council could also decide to keep to the original plan of spreading out the increases to catch up with the deferral, but that would lead to a pull on the city’s surplus and reserves, something staff say is not sustainable.
“If you pull $2 million every year, it goes away pretty fast,” said Campbell. “We have to be resilient so when bad things happen, like COVID, we are able to defer taxes and do things. Best practice is to have two to three months worth of operating expenses set aside. We won’t have that after this year. We’re going below with the best practices to have money set aside in case something happens in the community, we need to make sure and council needs to make sure that the city is resilient and sustainable as well.”
The tax rates are separate from the increases to utility rates which will also be set during the city’s budget deliberations in November.
READ MORE: Penticton council members charged up about electricity hikes in 2024
The focus of the budget is on focusing on council and community priorities of public safety, housing and moving the community forward in vibrancy, the city told media ahead of the budget overview presentation to council.
The city is adding a new public safety department which will be headed by a new director.
“When we look at having to be better prioritize housing and prioritize safety, we need to separate them,” said Anthony Haddad, the city’s chief administrative officer. “So faster approvals, better access to staff and better oversight of developments are coming through.”
The new public safety director role will be funded by shifting over already allocated funds from other departments, mainly from growth and development, and is budgeted for up to $200,000.
The budget also includes $41.3 million of capital projects, 60 per cent funded through the city’s utilities and include upgrades to the community centre, dam upgrades, wastewater treatment plan upgrades and reconstruction of Eckhardt Avenue.
Public engagement on the budget will begin on Oct. 23and will continue to Nov. 12.
The city will be gathering feedback through kiosk set up at City Hall and the Library, online, and through the the council open house on Oct. 26. Deliberations by council on the budget will be held on Nov. 21 to 23.