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Council divided on 2014 budget

Penticton City Council approved the city's five year financial plan, including the 2014 budget, at a special meeting Friday morning at city hall.

Dealing with the budget early, means the city can now get on with business, said Mayor Garry Litke.

"It's good to have the budget dealt with, so staff can get to work early in the year," he said. "And it's fiscally prudent because it ensures we can get the best values for taxpayers' dollars."

While Litke was happy with the outcome, three councillors, Andrew Jakubeit, Helena Konanz and John Vassilaki, were opposed to the adoption of the plan.

The three have expressed concerns throughout the budget process, which ended with the council deciding on a 2 percent tax increase with the balance coming from the general surplus reserve.

The increase is needed to deal with the $682,000 deficit the council was left with at the end of their deliberations.

"I think staff did a great job of bringing forward a responsible budget," said Konanz.. "But more motions could have been made by council during the process to bring down the deficit. I made many, many motions to make cuts."

Konanz said with more cuts, the city would not be dealing with the 2 percent tax increase and the dip into reserves.

"It's not that I am against a small tax increase," she said. "I just believe more could have been done for this particular budget."

Vassilaki also supported more cuts, rather than a tax increase, during the budget process.

Jakubeit voted against this year's budget, because he thought council should have put more funding into economic development.

The 2 percent tax increase was also beyond his comfort level.

"I would have been more comfortable with a 1 or 1 and a half percent increase," he said.

The tax increase was only one controversial aspect of the process.

During talks, council also decided not to replace two recently retired firefighters as a way to cut 2014 budget expenses.

Friday's meeting came on the heels of a meeting Thursday, where the purpose was to pass the first three readings of the financial plan.

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