Severe infrastructure deficit

The City of Kelowna faces what is being described as a "severe infrastructure gap."

Close to half of all infrastructure needs for the city in the next 10 years is not currently funded.

That works out to $478 million of the more than $1 billion needed to build new, replace old or for infrastructure to maintain growth.

Capital assets manager Joel Shaw told council 72 per cent of that shortfall is related to growth and infrastructure needed to improve service levels.

Many of those projects are related to transportation, with well over half ($257 million) of the $456 million needed has funding sources attached.

Another $100 million of the $248 million for building upgrades is also unfunded.

Shaw says over the past 10 years, the city has earmarked less money for the pay-as-you-go program, money taken directly from taxation for infrastructure projects. In 2007, he says about 20 per cent of taxation went into the program while just 10 per cent was earmarked this year.

At the same time, he says, there has been a steady increase in construction costs.

"Infrastructure costs have increased significantly over the last couple of years, which is putting pressure on our program," said Shaw.

"In the 10-Year Capital Plan, renewal investment is down slightly which is concerning, because it needs to be going in the other direction."

Coun. Gail Given called the report a reality check. In particular, she was concerned to hear the pay-as-you-go monies were declining.

"It means we aren't funding our infrastructure to the level we should," said Given."

She is also concerned the financial numbers may be a bit too optimistic.

"We are seeing projects coming in 25 and 30 per cent higher than we have in our budget.

Given adds the rationale that cities should be able to deliver public infrastructure such as sewer, roads and sidewalks with a cost of living increase is false.

"It's costing us to go deeper and deeper in the hole."

Mayor Colin Basran encouraged residents to look over the infrastructure report to get a sense of "how serious the infrastructure gap in our community is."

"When you see the increase at tax time, it isn't nearly what it could be for services that are essential for the future growth of our community," said Basran.

"We're just scratching the surface here. That is the reality."

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