Former city councillor and now Mayor John Vassilaki presided over his first city budget from the mayor’s chair. (Steve Kidd - Western News)

Penticton taxpayers to pay 3.6 per cent more in 2019

City council approved budget with few changes

Following three days of deliberations, the City of Penticton approved a 3.6 per cent tax increase for residents in 2019.

“You cannot present a zero budget to a community, you have to address inflation,” said Coun. Jake Kimberley. “3.6 per cent is a reasonable budget, but I would have liked to see us trim a little more off of that.”

Council heard presentations from all city departments about 2018 successes and proposed budgets for 2019. According to a release issued by the city, special focus was given to four areas as a means of tackling key challenges facing the city: public safety and security; planning for growth and development; asset management and public accountability along with financial transparency.

“I would like to thank staff and council for the considerable amount of planning and consideration that went into this budget planning process, the first for this newly elected council. The thoroughness of the budget package allowed both council and the public to easily comprehend the full scope of the budget,” said Vassilaki in a release. “Balancing the needs of a growing community against the available financial resources of both taxpayers and city reserves is never an easy task.”

A key change in the budget for Penticton’s RCMP department is the increase in salaries and benefits of $150,000 to accommodate a new officer joining the ranks. This is in relation to the previous council’s endorsement in 2017 of a five-year plan to increase one RCMP officer per year at the detachment.

“Our staffing levels are key, and for the first time since I’ve been here our staffing levels, by the end of April, will be up to 100 per cent,” said Supt. Ted De Jager during his presentation to the council. “Not just here in Penticton, but regionally, which has an effect on Penticton as the hub.”

Coun. Julius Bloomfield said it was encouraging to hear the force was up to full strength, after being down one member last year.

“Maybe it will wipe out that overtime factor and we won’t have to worry about it again,” said Bloomfield.

Also related to the city’s safety and security, council approved the allotment of $30,000 for a new centralized downtown RCMP and bylaw office and $200,000 for strategic area lighting and pedestrian crossing lighting.

The city’s transit budget has an increase in net operating expenses due to the implementation of the new Penticton-Kelowna bus route that will commence in September 2019. An increase of $125,000 will be allotted to the city’s communications and engagement department to fund replacing the city’s website.

An additional item of replacing the city’s Christmas lights was added to the budget deliberations. Council approved the spending of $50,000 to see the lights replaced for winter 2019.

“I have been through a lot of budgets in the last 20-odd years, and I just want to say this is one of the best, most comprehensive budgets I’ve ever seen,” said Coun. Katie Robinson. “I just want to say right off the bat to staff thank you for all the hard work that you’ve put in.”

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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