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Kamloops  

Kamloops council eyes 10.8 per cent tax hike as inflation, supply chains, labour costs impact budget

'Difficult' budget for city

Ongoing supply chain issues, continued impacts of inflation and labour contract changes are some of the factors expected to impact the City of Kamloops’ budget next year.

David Hallinan, the city’s corporate services director, gave council members a look at the proposed 2024 budget during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, including a provisional 10.8 per cent tax increase.

“I want to really preface there is a lot of risk in this budget this year. This is probably one of the most difficult budget years for putting [it] together based on just what is going on in the world around us,” Hallinan said.

According to city administration, about 7.6 per cent of the increase is due to contractual obligations and economic impacts.

“Many of our union contracts are expiring, specifically for our key partners,” Hallinan said, noting these include CUPE workers, firefighters and police.

“Of note, the city does not negotiate the RCMP contract, that is done on a federal level. So we essentially get a bill from the government in terms of what they have concluded and what they have finalized.”

It’s estimated RCMP contract increases will result in a $2.9 million impact on budget.

Hallinan said a BC Transit contract was settled earlier this year, which resulted in a $2.2 million funding increase. However, transit revenues in Kamloops are up, resulting in an additional $1 million in revenue to the city which helps balance out this impact.

Hallinan said BC Transit, Kamloops Fire Rescue and city fleets are also seeing significant fuel increases and maintenance costs.

Coun. Stephen Karpuk asked if other municipalities are facing the same increased costs due to union contract negotiations.

“What we are seeing across the board in labor unions period at this point, not to call them out or single them out, but we are seeing significant numbers and significant wage increases being requested,” Hallinan replied.

Council heard other municipalities are facing similar tax hikes next year, including a provisional 9 per cent for Mission, 6 per cent for Nanaimo, 8 per cent for Saanich, 9.8 per cent for Coldstream, 8.6 per cent for Cranbrook and 7.3 per cent for Chilliwack.

While there's months of budget discussions yet to come, Kamloops’ provisional increase sits at 10.8 per cent, with 1 per cent, or about $1.35 million, intended for the city's Build Kamloops initiative. The ambitious plan aims to build more recreation, arts and culture facilities for the community.

Hallinan told Castanet the slightly higher tax increase estimated for the Tournament Capital may be due in part to the city’s focus on upkeep for parks and sports-related infrastructure, as well as the fact that Kamloops is a hub centre.

“We're seeing a lot of everything coming this direction. We see it in emergency events where cities evacuate. …That places a little bit of a pressure on the city to be able to help support when those types of events happen,” he said.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter thanked Hallinan for incorporating the one per cent for Build Kamloops so council could consider its impact and hear feedback from residents about the move.

“It would be the easiest one to let go because it's an additive, but it's also the only one we see in there that will generate revenue, that we have some kind of an ROI [return on investment] on something in there,” Neustaeter said. “I think it's something for us to really carefully consider.”

Council voted 8-1 in favour of directing staff to prepare a bylaw for the five-year provisional financial plan, including the additional one per cent tax increase in support of Build Kamloops.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson was opposed, noting he felt some costs are being “downloaded” on to Kamloops taxpayers by other levels of government.

The final tax rate won't be settled until spring 2024, with council still needing to go through several rounds of budget talks. A public budget meeting is set for Thursday, Nov. 30 at Sandman Centre.

Hallinan said the city is open to hearing public feedback and answering questions about the budget. He acknowledged no one likes to pay taxes, but noted the money goes to provide important services like police and fire protection.

"There are things out there that I want to pay for and I really hope I never use, policing and fire are the two that come to mind. I don't want to make the phone call to 911 and have the fire department come to my house, but it's like insurance in my mind," he said.

"There's lots of things we collectively do to support the community that we want to live in."



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