Most supplemental budget items — including funding for the City of Kamloops' climate action plan — have been approved by mayor and councillors, setting the city’s 2022 tax rate at 4.92 per cent.
The committee of the whole discussed and voted on the 12 supplemental budget asks at its meeting on Tuesday morning.
The mayor and some councillors said they struggled with whether to approve the Community Climate Action Plan funding strategy, which will see taxation increase by 0.35 per cent annually, accumulating $444,000 per year to implement the plan.
Coun. Dale Bass said she was concerned about increasing the tax rate, but after hearing recent reports that the climate is in “worse shape than we thought we were in,” had made up her mind to vote in favour of the budget ask.
“Even though people may be angry that the tax rate is going to be higher than they want, the reality is our climate is going to be worse than what they want, and it's a balance of which is worse,” Bass said.
“Right now, I don't want to have to live through another heat dome, even though we will, and I don't want to have to watch rivers flood, even though they will, because that's our new normal.”
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said he struggled with approving the plan this year on behalf of low income Kamloops residents, especially as inflation is increasing. He said the city has also committed to spending money on other measures that would have a beneficial climate impact, such as active transportation plans.
Coun. Dieter Dudy said he was in favour of the plan, and asked staff if council would be able to increase the climate plan taxation amount in future years — an idea Bass said she agreed with.
Kathy Humphrey, the city’s corporate services director, said this was possible, and suggested approving it through council and revisiting the rates through the committee in future years if desired.
Community Climate Action Plan funding was approved 7-2, with Coun. Bill Sarai and O’Reilly opposed.
The committee defeated an ask for a multi-coloured LED lighting system for city hall, which would allow the facility to be lit in recognition of events. A suggestion to install public wifi in some municipal spaces was also defeated.
A proposed supplemental budget item aimed at stopping train whistles on Lorne Street was denied. However, a motion put forward by O’Reilly and approved by the committee will see city staff work to bring forward more options for addressing the issue.
The committee voted to support the city’s urban management wildlife plan, a new mausoleum for Hillside Cemetery, upgrades to the Norbrock Stadium and inclusive playground updates among other asks.
At the beginning of the meeting, Kathy Humphrey, the city’s corporate services director, told the committee there had been some adjustments to the budget and its provisional 4.89 per cent tax increase.
These changes included the addition of some items — such as swimming lesson program development after Red Cross announced it would stop providing the service.
However, Humphrey said final numbers from BC Assessment showed more growth than the city anticipated.
“Able to be applied to the general tax roll is now about $1.4 million in growth. So that's an extra $400,000 that we don't need to add into this year's tax,” Humphrey said.
Taking into account those changes, Humphrey said the city’s provisional 4.89 per cent tax increase could be decreased to 4.52 per cent as a “starting point before we get to the supplemental budget items.”
After accounting for all the approved supplemental budget items, the tax rate was settled at 4.92 per cent.
Mayor Ken Christian thanked Humphrey and staff for their work.
“I think it represents a very difficult taxation year in Kamloops, with I think an element of fairness recognizing the acute needs of the community,” Christian said.
Tax rates and financial bylaws will be finalized at a regular city council meeting on April 12, with final approval of the bylaw expected in May.