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Opinion  

Budget no penny pincher

You can always count on politicians and public servants to fall over themselves justifying how much money they take out of our wallets in the form of taxation.

So the sensible words used to describe this week’s preliminary budget deliberations in Kelowna were no surprise. “Reasonable… bare essentials… minimal… balanced.”

Council started out on the right foot during the day-long budget lock-up, trimming a projected 3.47 per cent tax hike down to 3.41 per cent. But then they couldn’t resist adding a few things back in, coming out with a final tax increase of 3.46 per cent – or $60 on the average Kelowna home.

It was almost as if to say “Look at us! We just saved you one 100th of a per cent!” You can almost visualize the self-congratulatory pats on the back for their sound fiscal management.

It’s true the bulk of the increase this year is for police costs, $1.9 million of which is beyond council’s control in the form of contractual raises and interest on debt for a new RCMP detachment. But what was completely within the city’s control (the previous council, at least) was how it plans to pay for that $48-million building.

Don’t get us wrong. We believe the facility is badly needed.

But if you turn back the clock a couple of years, you may recall the city sold its profitable municipal electrical utility to FortisBC for $55 million. The money was promptly reinvested in Fortis stock.

If the RCMP detachment were in such a crumbling, packed-to-the-rafters state of affairs, surely the city would have known this at the time. It could have put that money aside to pay for a new police station rather than undertaking the costliest borrowing project the city has ever seen.

The new budget is not outrageous. But it is hardly the penny-pinching document City Hall would have you believe. 

— News Director Jon Manchester

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