Many attendees at City of Kamloops budget meeting in favour of tax-based climate funding

Tax hike draws a crowd

About 70 people turned up for a City of Kamloops budget meeting Thursday, with many attendees saying they wanted to ensure taxation-based funding for climate initiatives doesn’t get watered down as council considers next year's provisional 10.8 per cent tax increase.

The meeting was held at Sandman Centre. Attendees had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with city administration, the mayor and councillors.

David Hallinan, corporate services director, gave a presentation about how the budget is put together and the estimated costs for the city to deliver its services next year.

Jessica Guthier said she attended as she believes it’s important for the city to implement its Community Climate Action Plan, which was adopted by the past council in June 2021.

In 2022, council approved the addition of an annual 0.35 per cent taxation increase to help fund initiatives identified in the plan. It’s estimated this increase will boost the CCAP reserve by $1.34 million in 2024. Guthier said she wanted to see this funding continue.

“It's important to show the other faces who are advocating for this, as opposed to wanting to cut back taxes at the expense of our health and our environment,” Guthier said.

Carl Gagnier was on the same page.

“Last year, they approved the supplemental budget item climate action plan that was well thought out and presented, the council bought into it, and it's a multi-year process,” he said.

“We want to make certain that it’s going ahead, because it's very important for everybody. And if we start nickel and diming, that's not going to address the needs of the residents and future residents of Kamloops.”

Hallinan told meeting attendees next year’s budget and tax rate will be impacted by a number of factors, including persistent supply chain issues, inflation, a number of union contracts coming up for renewal and a skilled worker shortage.

Attendees heard a taxation funding increase of about 1 per cent works out to about $1.35 million in total, or $25 for the average household, subject to mill rates and assessed property values. The city is looking at a 10.8 per cent increase in taxation-based funding next year.

Hallinan said when considering costs for city services, it’s helpful to consider many of them run 24/7. He noted the cost of one fire truck is US$1.2 million, and the cost of one additional police officer is $225,000. It costs $300,000 to resurface one kilometre of roadway.

Hallinan told attendees the average house paid about $2,647 in property taxes in 2023. About $700 of that total was put towards policing — a couple hundred dollars more than the estimated $500 annual cost of a bring-your-own-phone mobile plan.

By paying property taxes, the average household pitched in $400 toward fire services, while corporate services cost under $300, according to the city’s calculations. A $14.99 Netflix package costs about $200 annually.

Phil Strange said the presentation covered a lot of information on a complex subject.

“I just appreciate them laying it all out for us so we can understand. The discussion will come later on what's important or what's not,” Strange said.

“What I would hope is that city council has a desire to provide excellent value for our dollar. And as long as we have the opportunity to speak up and suggest stuff, that’s as much as we can do.”

Holly Judd told Castanet Kamloops she attended the budget meeting because she was concerned about what she believes is a high tax increase proposed for next year.

John Hammond, meanwhile, said he moved to Kamloops a couple of years ago and noted it’s “the lowest taxes I’ve ever paid in my life.”

He said he felt a 10.8 per cent increase in taxation was reasonable — “probably too low,” he said — adding the city shouldn’t wait on grant funding to pay for projects that will help take action on climate change.

Lorene Anders said she was in favour of a 1 per cent tax increase going towards the city’s Build Kamloops initiative, an ambitious plan which aims to build more recreation, arts and culture facilities for the community — including a long-awaited performing arts centre.

She said three years after a referendum on borrowing for the centre was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is “no further ahead” on the project.

Budget discussions will continue over the next few months. In February, council will consider new proposals for increased funding or changes to service levels in the form of supplemental budget items.

Kamloops residents will have another opportunity to weigh in on those items.

More information on the budget can be found on the City of Kamloops Lets Talk page.

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