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Budget 2014 - day long coverage

Update 2:45 p.m. - After nearly six hours of budget deliberations and shuffling some budget items around, Kelowna City Council has settled on a tax increase of 2.49%. Council was unanimous in making sure the budget did not exceed 2.5% and symbolically got below the figure.

Final details to come.

Update 12 p.m. - As council takes a lunch break, after three-and-a-half hours of deliberations, $191,000 has been trimmed from the budget. That means, at the present time, the proposed 2.67% tax increase has been knocked down slightly to 2.46%.

Update: - Plans will go ahead to spend $335,000, including $190,000 from taxation, for replacement of the City Park tennis courts. The project will include the addition of lights for nighttime use and drainage improvements.

There was some debate over whether, in fact, the tennis courts should be replaced instead by pickleball courts, a popular new sport in Kelowna which utilizes tennis courts with a different line configuration.

Councillor Andre Blanleil suggested the City Park tennis courts were not used much. "I want to bring different people into the park," suggested Blanleil. I think pickleball would be a natural. It would bring the right people into the park. I have no problem with the budget number I just want to make sure it is used."

Staff indicated pickleball courts could be added to the park in the future during the anticipated re-design of City Park.

Update 10:05 a.m. - Bernard Avenue may get a festive look in 2014 after all. A $55,000 request for seasonal decorations along Bernard Avenue was not initially included in the 2014 budget. Council decided to take a look at the item again later in the day.

Christmas decorations and lights were not included along Bernard Avenue this year because of the current revitalization project. "I know it's a feel good thing but it is our premier street," commented Councillor Maxine DeHart in asking the item be looked at again. "We told the public we would do it next year. I don't like that we haven't included it."

Update 9:50 a.m. - Council has lowered the overall budget another $100,000 by lowering the taxation demand for Rutland Centennial Park Improvements from $400,000 to $300,000. The $100,000 savings came from the addition of those funds from a sports field reserve fund.

Update 9:25 a.m. - Kelowna Council has added $25,000 to the budget to replace the waterslide in the waterpark at City Park. The original request of $50,000 was not included in the budget, however, the Rotary Club had informed the city it was prepared to donate $25,000 to the project. Mayor Walter Gray, in recommending adding the $25,000 to the budget, stated the option was to either fix or close the 23 year old waterpark and closing it was not an option.

Update 8:45 a.m. - Council has reduced the budget by $150,000 through savings from Transit Operating Costs. Council at the same time will also look at adding $121,400 in the 2014 budget for the Gordon Drive transit expansion. That service would begin in September. The on-going cost in future years is $363,200. Council has stated it would look at adding the service, not part of the 2014 budget, only if it is able to realize savings from other areas and not by increasing taxes.

Kelowna City Council will review, in depth, the city's provisional 2014 budget today.

The line-by-line review is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and run until the final budget item is discussed.

Last year, council sped through the document in about four hours. In past years, budget deliberations have gone into the wee hours of the morning.

It is expected today's session will wrap up early in the afternoon.

Council will be reviewing a budget that asks taxpayers to pony up $107.9M in taxation, a 2.67% increase over 2013.

Should the budget remain as is which is unlikely, the average owner of a $451,440 home would be asked to pay an additional $45.11 over last year.

According to outgoing Finance Director, Keith Grayston, a 1% tax increase works out to a $16.90 hike in taxes.

A 1% increase, or decrease in taxes is equal to $1,030,000.

Castanet will provide updates of important decisions impacting the budget throughout the process Thursday. Look for updates to this story as new items are discussed.

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