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Kelowna  

Kelowna adding 16 police officers, six firefighters next year with 4.75% tax increase

A safety first budget

FINAL UPDATE

Kelowna city council accomplished two goals during Thursday's day-long budget deliberations.

They were able to exceed their budgeted allotment of new RCMP members and firefighters while not increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Despite adding four more police officers, two more firefighters than the budget called for and adding $50,000 toward the memorial for the five men who lost their lives in the July 12, 2021 crane collapse in downtown Kelowna, the city was still able to shave 0.01 per cent from the tax demand.

The overall tax increase came in at 4.75 per cent, down from the proposed 4.76 per cent.

In all, council approved 16 additional RCMP officers, six firefighters and six bylaw officers. Council was told all new additions should be on duty sometime in 2024.

Council was able to get under the proposed budget after $300,000 in inspection revenue was included as a late item.

"As many of the councillors said, community safety is one of our biggest issues and our top priority," said Mayor Tom Dyas.

Dyas said while council wanted to respect the work city manager Doug Gilchrist and his team did in preparing the budget, there was some concern around community safety.

"I think this is a fantastic budget for the community. If we didn't look at advancing those officers and we didn't look at advancing those firefighters, we probably would have been around 4.5 or somewhere in that range.

"But, we addressed community safety which was important."

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance says the four additional officers not originally in the budget will allow her Community Safety Unit to patrol both downtown and Rutland, something she says is not possible right now.

The 16 officers added Thursday brings the total number added since 2019 to 61.

Council also agreed to keep an additional $250,000 requested to shorten the time needed to complete the spring street sweep from 12 to eight weeks.

The overall tax demand came in at just under $190 million before new construction revenue is added in.

Factoring in the new construction revenue, the final tax demand is forecast at $185.016 million.

There were no changes to the city's overall capital budget.

The overall 2024 capital program, with projects spread over a number of years was pegged at $549.6 million, of which $140.1 million is requested for 2024.

The budget is just provisional. Minor changes to the tax rate could occur between now and the adoption of the final budget in the spring.


UPDATE: 5:40 p.m.

Kelowna city council has landed on a 2024 budget including a 4.75 per cent tax increase.

That includes a decision by council at the end of the day to add an additional four RCMP officers and two firefighters that were initially not included within the budget.

Those are on top of the community safety additions approved earlier in the day.

Council also agreed to keep an additional $250,000 for spring street sweeping in the budget.


UPDATE: 4:55 p.m.

Kelowna council has concluded deliberating the 2024 capital and operating budget.

They are taking a break while finance staff crunch the numbers on four items council wants to deliberate further.

Of those items, three public safety items would add about $1.34 million to the budget.

Council will also debate deleting a request to add $250,000 to the yearly spring street sweeping budget.


UPDATE: 4 p.m.

Kelowna council has voted to add $50,000 to the 2024 budget to assist with costs and development of the memorial for the five men who lost their lives as a result of the 2021 crane collapse downtown.

The funds will be set aside in case the $300,000 fundraising goal falls short.

Council voted 8-1 with Coun. Ron Cannan the lone dissenting vote.


UPDATE: 1:50 p.m.

A proposal to increase the spring sweeping budget by $250,000 to cut the time needed to complete spring street sweeping from 12 to eight weeks will be revisited by council later during budget deliberations.

Staff indicated there was an appetite from residents to lower the time it takes to clean the bike paths and road shoulders from winter sanding as the city continues to promote greater bike use across the region.


UPDATE: 12:20 p.m.

Council will discuss adding three community safety, RCMP and fire department requests at the end of budget deliberations.

The items would, if both are eventually added, add a little more than $1.34 million to the 2024 budget.

These include implementation of one action from the Community Safety Plan at a cost of $1.070 million, four additional RCMP members at a 2024 cost of $234,000 and two additional firefighters at a cost of $114,500.

Staff indicated the action plan was left out of the budget initially as the city looks for other forms of funding including grants and potential provincial funding. It is also still being determined whether the city or a stakeholder would deliver the plan.

Coun. Charlie Hodge suggested funding the plan which has been completed now while seeking funds later.

In voting against all three possible additions, Coun. Luke Stack suggested the city has a plan to add services moving forward while at the same time trying to keep the budget impact manageable.

In essence, he says council is blowing that plan out of the water.


UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

The addition of six bylaw officers in the 2024 budget brings the city's complement of bylaw officers to 34.

Corporate and protective services director Stu Leatherdale told council the additional officers also complete a full build out of a community safety team to deal with the homeless issue and the homeless encampment.


UPDATE: 11:05 a.m.

Council has completed deliberating the capital budget.

No changes were made to the $140.1 million budget.

In response to questions earlier from council, capital planning manager Joel Shaw said estimates for infrastructure planning are based on a 2024 population of 157,000.

"Based on the forecast population our infrastructure is growing proportionally," said Shaw.

"Our 20 year servicing plan is our plan for growth-related infrastructure. We did a lot of work last year developing that plan in co-ordination with the Transportation Master Plan and Official Community Plan.

"They accommodate growth and pace infrastructure for growth."


UPDATE: 10:25 a.m.

Council is starting to get bogged down with questions specific to individual project rationale such as roundabout locations instead of budget related issues.

Mayor Tom Dyas has had to rein in those questions and comments to get council focused on the task at hand on a number of occasions.


UPDATE: 9:50 a.m.

In what amounted to a housekeeping move, council unanimously agreed to move a little more than $2 million for community activity centre childcare construction into the 2024 budget.

This is part of the $25 million grant the city received from senior levels of government Wednesday.

The overall cost of the project over the next three years is a little more than $20 million.


UPDATE: 9:10 a.m.

Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrist kicked off budget day in city council chambers Thursday morning stating there shouldn't be any surprises within the 2024 budget.

"The budget represents the priorities of this council and is consistent of the plans and strategies you have over the course of the year and beyond," said Gilchrist.

I think it will be obvious to you that the most significant investments are really driven by two important factors, your priorities which represents the needs and wants of our community members and also growth to help insure we don't fall behind in infrastructure that makes Kelowna such a desirable place to live and invest."

Gilchrist says the most important thing the city does is to manage other people's money to provide services they cannot or should not provide themselves.

"It the real reason we are in business."


ORIGINAL 4 a.m.

Just how will the City of Kelowna spend more than half a billion dollars in 2024?

Kelowna city council will make those decision today when they go through the proposed 2024 budget line-by-line.

The preliminary 2024 budget anticipates expenditures and revenues of $560 million, including a tax demand of $190 million.

The tax demand works out to an increase of $13.4 million over 2023 or 4.76 per cent.

Protective services including fire, policing and bylaw account for the largest portion of the operating budget at more than $93 million.

The city also proposes to spend $140 million on numerous capital projects over the course of 2024.

Castanet will provide all-day coverage of the budget proceedings, beginning at 9 a.m.



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