Local politicians have their work cut out for them after giving preliminary approval to a 2014 budget for the regional district that contains a 4.85 per cent tax increase.
Following a series of budget workshops, the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen last gave first reading to its new financial plan.
The document will now go out for public consultation ahead of adoption in March, so numbers are subject to change.
As it stands now, the City of Penticton’s requisition is slated to climb by 3.63 per cent to $1.4 million, with the increase driven by higher costs for general government expenses and to implement the solid waste management plan.
“It’s going to be less than an extra $2 per household, approximately, for the entire year,” noted Wes Hopkin, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director.
Ratepayers in Area F (West Bench) are facing a 4.58 per cent increase, while those in Area E (Naramata) can expect a 3.64 per cent jump and Area D (Okanagan Falls-Kaleden) a 2.08 per cent boost.
Among the biggest increases are in the Town of Oliver, which is facing a 14.66 per cent hike, and Area C (Rural Oliver), which could be hit for a 10.35 per cent increase.
Oliver-area taxpayers are being hit by costs associated with operation of the Frank Venables Theatre, which is expected to reopen Feb. 6.
Allan Patton, the director for rural Oliver, unsuccessfully proposed carving out $43,000 — about a third of his requisition increase — by cutting spending on parks and recreation and the local heritage society.
“It’s incumbent on us to do our best to find tax savings or tax juggling somehow so that we just don’t constantly go back to the taxpayer for more,” said Patton, who was careful to note he appreciates the work of the volunteer organizations he proposed trimming.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes opposed the move.
“At the end of the day, we’re talking $20 per household to fund the operation of the theatre and, I shouldn’t assume, but I’m thinking my taxpayers would willingly pay $20 to have this $12-million theatre on their doorstep,” he said.
The RDOS operating budget as a whole is only projected to rise by 0.52 per cent to $27.7 million in 2014, with the shared regional services portion of that down by 0.35 per cent to $4.8 million.
“We’re not spending a lot of new money,” said Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden.
The general government budget is expected to decrease by 4.35 per cent to just shy of $2 million.
It includes increases for advertising and salaries that are balanced by cuts to consulting fees, economic development, and safety training and equipment.
RDOS directors have already rejected proposed increases for four part-time staff positions that would have cost $136,915.
Directors are still considering a $150,000-plan to standardize pay rates at volunteer fire departments.