Couns. Campbell Watt and Helena Konanz listen on as chief financial officer Jim Bauer delivers the budget summary Tuesday morning to kick off budget talks.                                Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Couns. Campbell Watt and Helena Konanz listen on as chief financial officer Jim Bauer delivers the budget summary Tuesday morning to kick off budget talks. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Budget talks kick off for City of Penticton

City staff expect the budget to see a three-per-cent bump to property taxes this year

The City of Penticton entered its three-day budget talks Tuesday, kicking off the morning with discussions on parks and recreation and economic development and development services.

The talks began with an overview of the budget, delivered by chief financial officer Jim Bauer, which was largely a repetition of an introductory session with the media and presentations at public hearings.

City officials expect the budget, if unaltered, would require a three per cent bump to property taxes, about half of which would be coming from inflation.

Engagement officer JoAnne Kleb followed Bauer’s presentation Tuesday morning to highlight some of the engagement the city has had with residents about the budget. Kleb said there was an exceptional number of people engaging with the city on the budget, including online, through the city’s engagement website, and through three days of open houses the city held.

“We had the opportunity to speak with about 140 citizens at our open houses, we generated over 400 visits and interactions on our website, our financial budget primer was downloaded 210 times, we received 120 responses to our online poll and feedback form,” Kleb said.

“Generally speaking, people were very supportive and felt that the council priorities were at the correct direction. There was some concern expressed that there may be too many, and it could be difficult to achieve.”

Those budget priorities included safety and enforcement; growth and development; and asset management.

Fifty-eight per cent of people who participated in the city’s surveys saw safety and enforcement as being very or extremely important, according to Kleb.

Participants in the surveys said they were in favour of more enforcement in the downtown area, with the potential for more support for RCMP, bylaw and outreach workers. RCMP will be making their case Wednesday morning, while bylaw presented to council Tuesday afternoon.

Growth and development, too, saw some support from the public, with 47 per cent saying they believe it was extremely or very important. But it was asset management that gained the most unanimity — 88 per cent of participants said they felt that was an important aspect for the city’s budget. That issue includes issues like revitalization of Main Street — which many were not in favour of — and the infrastructure deficit.

Budget deliberations are set to run through to Thursday, with transportation and protective services set to be the major tickets on Wednesday, and general government and grants set to take up most of the day on Thursday.

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