(file photo)

City of West Kelowna considering two per cent tax increase to cover infrastructure projects

Announcment comes as city prepares for 2020-2029 capital plan

It could soon cost more to live in West Kelowna.

City of West Kelowna finance director Warren Everton has raised the possibility of implementing a tax levy for local residents to help cover the costs of infrastructure projects over the next ten years.

Everton made the comments during a city council meeting on Tuesday, which showed that West Kelowna had much smaller reserves in comparison to other Okanagan cities like Vernon and Penticton. According to the report, West Kelowna had less than $30 million in its total reserves during the 2017 financial statement reporting period.

READ MORE: West Kelowna candidates discuss new city hall

During the presentation, Everton said the tax could closely follow other tax levys already implemented in neighbouring cities.

“We have aging assets that need to be taken care of and looked at from our reserves. I recommend putting more money in those reserves,” said Everton.

“We could potentially follow the suite of Vernon or Kelowna of doing a special levy that is typically in the 1.9 to 2.1 per cent range.”

In his report, Everton acknowledged that West Kelowna hadn’t had as much time to build up their reserves, particularly since the city is only 11 years old.

Everton said that a two per cent levy on the city’s total tax base of $33 million is $660,000, which could help cover city infrastructure projects over time since the current tax rate as it stands isn’t allowing the city to meet financial goals.

“When we first became a city, it was recommended that we have tax rates around five per cent,” he said.

“By having low tax rates (over the last ten years) hovering around three per cent, those amounts haven’t allowed a lot of flexibility in building reserves.”

Despite the concerns raised, West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom said during the meeting that nothing’s been decided.

“This is good information for us to consider at budget time,” he said.

“The city has kind of taken pay-as-you-go approach. When you do it, it doesn’t allow as much to be captured from the reserves each year.

“The message is that we need to carry on, and beef up our reserves.”

With 2019 infrastructure projects underway, the City of West Kelowna is now preparing for its 2020-2029 capital plan.


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connor.trembley@kelownacapnews.com

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