Day one of Penticton city council budget deliberations focused on health and safety as well as recreation and culture. Prior to discussions starting on Dec. 20, the city anticipated a tax increase of 2.9 per cent to account for an expected 4.2 per cent increase in expenses. (Photo from Unsplash)

Community safety, recreation and culture first topics of discussion in Penticton’s 2020 budget

Penticton RCMP clocked roughly 6,000 hours of overtime in ten months, at a cost of $422k

Penticton city council is getting into their annual budget discussions, and day one on Dec. 10 focused on community safety and recreation and culture.

Council approved an increase of $180,161 for bylaw services expenses, which puts the total anticipated expenses at just over $1 million.

This increase is largely due to the hiring of two new bylaw officers in the department this year, but the director of people and safety strategy Kerri Lockwood also said the department intends to implement a $10,000 downtown parking review to better manage the resident-only parking program.

Penticton’s RCMP was granted an increase of $356,998 in expenses for 2020, bringing the total anticipated expenses to over $9.7 million, which includes hiring a new officer as well as a municipal staff member for digital media field triage.

Sgt. Kirsten Marshall said this digital media person will take over work currently performed by regular members on overtime and will increase their solve rates for crimes involving digital media.

READ MORE: City of Penticton proposes 2.9 per cent tax hike for 2020

Coun. Katie Robinson said she has noticed an “uptick in residents identifying individuals” suspected of crimes through social media and the sharing of footage from security cameras, so she is very supportive of the RCMP bringing on a digital media staff member.

“A lot of these offenders are prolific, and they are well-known to the community. And it kind of boggles the mind sometimes when people take pictures of people trying to break into their car, and they’ve got them on camera and have their face so they can be identified,” said Robinson.

“So I’m hoping that through an additional officer in that department of digital media analysis, we can have a better follow-through so that (the offenders) are actually apprehended.”

During the discussions, it was stated that Penticton RCMP worked just under 6,000 hours of overtime from Dec. 2018 to Sept. 2019.

“That $422,268, that’s nearly the cost of three officers,” said Mayor John Vassilaki, who queried whether hypothetically providing three officers would cut down on the overtime costs in the future.

Marshall said a lot of the overtime hours are something the detachment does not have control over, with the bulk being spent on ongoing investigations and downtown patrols.

“As of December 2018, our former officer in command requested we started doing more downtown patrols. I believe there was a concern of safety in the downtown [area] so this was a way to increase our visibility with resources directed to that,” said Marshall, who said this segment of overtime hours is what the detachment would have the most control over adjusting.

“Unfortunately, things happen in terms of investigations and court time. Those are all out of our control because they are very much dictated by what’s happening in the community.”

READ MORE: Here’s your first look at Penticton’s proposed budget for 2019

Spectra Venue Management – which manages the South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC), the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, the Okanagan Hockey School Training Centre and the Memorial Ice Arena – is anticipating an increase of $55,202 in expenses for all four buildings, equaling a total loss of $1.48 million for the 2020 budget.

It was noted that while only six city-wide conventions were scheduled so far for 2020 in the trade and convention centre, there are around 170 events in total scheduled to use the facility next year.

As of press time on Dec. 11, council was on day two of budget discussions, with a focus on municipal grants, asset and amenity management and administration.

Budget talks are expected to conclude on Dec. 12 after a recap from staff and final council deliberations.

Prior to discussions starting, the city proposed a tax increase of 2.9 per cent in the 2020 budget to account for an anticipated 4.2 per cent increase in overall expenses.

Visit Pentictonwesternnews.com for up-to-date coverage on the City of Penticton’s 2020 budget.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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