After three days of discussion, Vernon City Council has released its preliminary budget results. The decisions centered around four key values the city wants to concentrate on while moving forward.
Council wants to create a long-term sustainable revenue base, work within a new revenue target of 1.8 per cent or less, create a sound recapitalization strategy and work within the scope and level of city services.
The following are some of the notable decisions of the 2013 budget:
- Carbon reduction is a goal. Energy efficient lighting and upgrades at the downtown parkade will be done (costing $10,000). Domestic hot water systems at the Fire hall and RCMP office will be replaced with solar hot water heating (costing $24,000). Parking rates were increased to encourage use of transit and reduce car dependence.
- To expand the longevity of the cemetery, a business plan will be developed (costing $30,000). The cemetery now operates at a loss and the goal is to turn it into a cost neutral operation with the possible construction of a columbarium.
- $20,000 will be spent on repairs to cemetery irrigation.
- Communities in Bloom will be discontinued at a savings of $9,100. Local service and garden clubs will be encouraged to assume responsibility for the program.
Vernon Regional Airport
- An Airport Runway Feasibility Study will be done (costing $35,000) and additional runway snow-clearing equipment will be purchased (costing $15,000).
- To lower maintenance costs over the long term and provide the City with budgeting and maintenance information, an engineering consultant will evaluate the airport’s paved surfaces (costing $15,000)
- The fountain in front of the Museum has leaks and failing plumbing. New waterproof membranes and drainage system will cost $15,000. This will be a temporary fix until the next phase of the Spirit Square development.
- Upgrade obsolete fire alarm system - $42,000.
- Ventilation system for the evidence room - $7,000.
- The RCMP budget increased by 1.8 per cent ($155,159). This was less than requested. The RCMP will be reviewing options to maintain high value services and possible reductions in staffing.
- Parking Meter rates will increase from $.50 (fifty cents) to $1.00 (one dollar) per hour on all meters. Many of the existing meters are due to be replaced because of new lighter coins. This increase will bring in additional revenue of $349,860 annually. These changes will take place near the end of February or early March.
- Parking Tickets that are paid within 14 days will increase from $5 to $10. This is anticipated to bring in $153,500 annually in added revenue.
- Flat parking lots will increase from $35/month and $21.40 per month (in some cases) to $65/month.
- Parkade monthly parking will go up from $55/month to $65/month except the rooftop parking, which increases from $25/month to $35/month. (The roof is less expensive as it is not covered parking).
- In many cases, parking rates have not been increased for ten years. The new rates are more in line with transit costs (a transit pass is $53/month), what other communities charge and the costs of retaining land for parking.
- The Heritage Grant program was reduced by $5,000 annually.
Permissive Tax Exemptions
- Tax Exemptions for not-for-profits (also known as the Permissive Tax Exemption) will be reduced by 10 per cent which will bring in an additional $59,000 (effective in 2014).
Infrastructure (Roads, Sidewalks, Streetlights, Paths, Street Signs)
- Property taxes will show an increase by 1.9 per cent dedicated to maintenance and replacement of infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, pipe systems, etc.) The intent is to add 1.9 per cent, per year cumulative for the next nine years. This will add approximately $473,000 in new revenue each year. In ten years, this dedicated tax will generate approximately $5 to $6 million per year for reinvestment in the City’s infrastructure. This tax will be noted as a separate line item on the tax notice.
Vernon City Council may reopen budget discussions on some issues once the Core Service Review is concluded at the end of March.