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Budget will cost you additional $45

The owner of the average home in Kelowna will pay an additional $45.11 in municipal taxes in 2014 - that is if no changes are made to the City's provisional budget.

The proposed 2014 budget with a tax demand of $105.4M, an increase of 2.67% over 2013, will be debated by City Council Thursday.

Council heard during Monday's budget run up the city will bring in $289M in revenues.

Of that, taxation accounts for the largest chunk at 37% followed by fees at 33% ($96M), and reserves and surplus at 12% ($35M). Other revenue sources make up the remaining 18%.

The operating budget, the money it takes to run the city on a year-to-year basic comes in at $105.4M.

The largest chunk ($27M) goes to Civic Operations. Police services takes $25M while fire assumes another $14M.

The capital projects budget includes $44.5M in Priority 1 requests, $14.1M of which would come from taxation - the same as 2013.

Capital Assets and Investment Manager, Joel Shaw, says road projects make up about 29 per cent of the capital project value with transit at 14 per cent and buildings, parks and real estate all at eight per cent.

"Big road projects include Lakeshore Road and bridge replacement and a roads resurfacing program," says Shaw.

"Within the transit cost centre we have the upgrade of the Queensway Transit Exchange and on the parks side of things we have the Rutland Centennial Park improvement going forward in 2014."

The Lakeshore Road project took a further hit when it was learned the city would not be receiving an $8M Gas Tax grant as it had been expecting.

"We are going to pay for our lack or generosity from the province on the Lakeshore Road project," says Councillor Robert Hobson.

"It's a very heavy hit to pay that extra $8M that we had anticipated would come forward in grants. I know it's not nice to bite the hand that feeds you, but in this case they haven't fed us at all."

Hobson says the project is a key inter-generational project, one the city felt deserved the financial support.

Council also heard Monday the cost to the taxpayer on debt servicing alone is going up.

In 2000, 3.5 per cent of taxation went to pay off principle and interest payments on borrowing. In 2014 that will go up to 3.8 per cent and, by 2016, it will hit 6.8 per cent.

The additional increases in debt servicing will come from anticipated borrowing for the new RCMP Detachment and upgrades to the Parkinson Rec Centre.

The city's reserve fund, which sat at a high of $147M just two years ago, currently has a balance of $94M. The 2014 budget proposes to prop the reserves by $13M to $107M.

"Reserves are the cornerstone to provide flexibility to council in looking at projects," says Director of Finance, Keith Grayston.

Council depleted some of the reserves in order to achieve a 1 per cent budget hike in 2012 and also to move projects forward using federal and provincial infrastructure grants.

The reduced size of the reserve pool is something concerning to Hobson.

"I know we do put money aside in land reserves and so forth in this budget but once reserves get depleted, you are really robbing future councils of the flexibility to do good things," says Hobson.

"One of the best things we can do is put money in reserves."

Castanet will have live updates of Thursday's budget session beginning at 8:30.


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