Budget b&w, with no Gray

Kelowna city council gave its approval Monday to the city's 2017 budget.

The budget includes a tax demand of $127.1 million, which works out to an increase of 3.84 per cent over last year.

That's a slight decrease over the provisional 3.86 per cent increase conditionally approved by council in December.

However, how council arrived at the final number did not impress one councillor.

During budget deliberations in December, Coun. Tracy Gray questioned the need for many new staff positions either created, or filled in the budget. In all, at least 20 new employees were being brought into city hall through the budget.

Gray renewed those objections Monday as she spoke out against the budget, saying she has spent a lot of time reflecting since December, and says she has to go with what she believes in.

"And, I believe in smaller government and strong fiscal discipline, all while taking care of the things we need to in our community. I feel many of the permanent staff positions in this budget are more of a want than a need," said Gray.

"One position is a managerial position managing two staff. Another is a permanent position acting in part to support a term position, and ironically, it's proposed to hire additional HR staff when we're renovating city hall."

While many of the positions spoken for in this year's budget will only cost taxpayers 50 to 75 per cent of a full year salary depending on the hiring date, Gray says she's concerned about how it will affect budgets in the future.

"The hits to taxation as part of an increase in operating budgets are in the future, therefore are even greater next year, and years following.

"Anytime that we hire a new permanent position, whether it's part-time or full-time, that position is in perpetuity, and is subject to increases every year, unless you decide to terminate the position."

Gray believed many of the permanent positions could have been handled through term positions, or as a service provided by an outside consultant or contractor.

"The hiring philosophy of this budget, which crosses pretty much every department with many positions is just too far out of my belief system to support this year's budget," she concluded.

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