After two days of number crunching, Vernon council has settled on a tax increase of 4.79% for 2023.
The budget includes a 1.47% increase for annual operating expenses, 1.90% increase for the final instalment of the 10-year infrastructure levy program; and a 1.42% increase for services improvements.
“The 2023 budget maintains core municipal services and reaffirms council’s commitment to community safety,” says Mayor Victor Cumming.
“Prior to the budget planning process, council directed administration to bring forward a budget with an operating increase that was 3% or less. Thanks to the diligent and careful work of staff, the increase for the proposed operating budget was less than half that amount.”
Cumming says council “thoughtfully considered the balance between affordability and community needs."
The budget includes the addition of two new RCMP officers, a deputy fire chief position for Vernon Fire Rescue Services, and a new bylaw compliance officer.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in call volumes with requests for emergency assistance,” said Cumming. “These positions will bolster our local emergency response teams.”
Enhanced snow clearing services were also approved for bus stops and priority lanes, including weekend and holiday clearing of sidewalks maintained by the city.
The changes will see snow removed from the downtown core, 27th Street, and 32nd Street (Highway 97) on a more frequent basis in significant snowfalls, with funding coming from reserves.
Vernon’s 2023 capital program will include more than $21.5 million in projects. Some of the larger projects are:
- Kin Race Track Athletic Park Phase 1 - $3 million
- Polson Park Vernon Creek Naturalization Phase 1 - $1.95 million
- Civic Memorial Park Phase 3 - $1.36 million
- Infrastructure replacement on 32nd Ave from Pleasant Valley Road to 20th St - $1.72 million
- Infrastructure replacement on 32nd Ave and 38th St near Alexis Park Drive and 30th Ave - $2.78 million
- Extension of sanitary sewer collector pipe to a portion of the remaining non-serviced areas in Okanagan Landing using horizontal directional drilling - $1.11 million
Following referendum approval of a new Active Living Centre, the city will borrow the funds necessary to develop the project.
For 2023, the city will be able to undertake the final design process, which is expected to cost up to $12 million (approximately 10% of the project budget), the city says. However, there is no impact to taxation in 2023.
Funds for the detailed design work are expected to be borrowed from the Municipal Finance Authority next fall.