Revenue ideas delay Penticton budget

Taxpayers in Penticton are going to have to wait a while longer to find out how big the property tax increase is going to be this year.

Taxpayers in Penticton are going to have to wait a while longer to find out how big the property tax increase is going to be this year.

At their Jan. 11 regular meeting, council considered a number of fee increases brought forward by staff to generate additional revenue for the city.

In total, the fee changes would have reduced the city’s deficit by about $235,000 and, in turn, reduce the projected tax increase from 6.36 per cent to 5.4 per cent.

Council felt they didn’t have enough information to approve some increases, and balked at some of the increases, which fell into four broad categories: admission and booking fees at recreation facilities, building fees and fines, increases in the bylaw services and business licenses.

Coun. Helena Konanz objected strenuously to increasing admission fees for public swimming, which budget analyst Deb Clipperton said were already higher than any other community in the Okanagan.

“We have to keep our kids active, we have to keep our people active in our community,” said Konanz. Council agreed not to increase the public swimming fees, projected to add $23,500 in revenue.

The biggest stumbling block, however, was a schedule of increases to building fees and fines, projected as a $145,325 revenue increase.

Coun. Campbell Watt wanted more information about the increases before voting, saying it was important not to stifle new investment in the community.

“We are looking to develop, to densify. I don’t think it is prudent for us to be increasing the cost,” said Watt. “Right now, I think it is very important for us as a city to be open-armed.”

After discussion, council decided the best way forward was to send the schedule of fee increases to the city’s Development Services Committee for consideration.

“That means our budget is finalized for potentially another month,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.

Council did approve several fee increases, which Clipperton reported reduced the projected tax increase to 6.05 per cent.

Watt, echoing an earlier comment from Coun. Tarik Sayeed, suggested council should also take time to reconsider the $500,000 they approved as part of the capital budget for a colored LED light canopy over a short portion of Main Street.

“I think we may have to reevaluate that,” said Watt. Clipperton pointed out that wouldn’t have any effect on the tax increase, since it was part of the capital budget, not the operating budget.

The discussion of the light canopy and finalizing the budget is expected to occur at the first council meeting in February.