After nearly four hours of deliberation, Kelowna city council approved the preliminary 2022 budget with a proposed 3.64 per cent tax increase.
This is slightly more than the 3.49 per cent increase that was first proposed after several items were included in the budget. This includes two new RCMP positions, one new staff position and several infrastructure requests, among others.
The tax increase will amount to an $80 increase for the average homeowner in the city, according to a City of Kelowna press release. This is lower than other cities in the region: West Kelowna is eyeing a four per cent tax increase while Vernon is planning for an increase of more than six per cent.
The proposed tax demand totals $166.4 million, an increase of $8.7 million over last year. This includes an additional 17 safety-related positions approved by council, including 11 new RCMP members. It is estimated to cost more than $4 million for RCMP contract services alone. The city also plans on reserving $8.3 million for retroactive payments to the RCMP.
The tax demand also includes funds for post-pandemic recovery. The city plans on investing money into the expansion of the Capital News Centre, as well as rebuilding the Parkinson Recreation Centre and the Island Stage in Waterfront Park.
Transportation took centre stage during budget deliberation on Thursday, Dec. 9. Council approved a $15.6 million investment into transportation projects, which will include multi-modal transportation and alternative transportation options.
Councillors were generally optimistic of the preliminary financial plan, despite some disagreements with some line items. City staff were also optimistic about the outcomes of the budget deliberation.
“Strong financial management and clear direction have served our community well for many years and I am confident that we have built a budget that reflects this culture,” said city manager Doug Gilchrist. “We are headed into the new year with optimism and we are well-positioned for a strong economic recovery and significant advancement of our community goals in 2022.”
The preliminary budget heads back to city staff for final revisions and considerations. Carryover requests will be presented to council next March, and the final tax demand will be decided by council next April.
A full copy of the preliminary 2022 financial plan can be found on the city’s website.