West Kelowna  

Taxes could rise 7, 8, 9 %

West Kelowna council is suggesting taxpayers could face significant tax increases if the province's proposed speculation tax goes through.

Tuesday, councillors turned down a proposal which would have seen the city charge a franchise fee to the gas utility.

That would have raised about $1 million a year for the city, however, chief administrative officer Jim Zaffino says it would, in turn, be passed on to the customer.

Many on council believed the fee would turn into nothing more than a backdoor tax, and wouldn't support it.

"People are tired of being nickled and dimed," said Mayor Doug Findlater.

"At the very least, this is the wrong time. The more transparent way to deal with a shortfall related to development revenue is to simply increase taxes."

Coun. Rick de Jong said the city needs to find true, new revenue, saying if that means a seven, eight or nine per cent tax increase because of the spec tax, "that's reality because of the NDP."

In proposing the gas utility fee, Zaffino said the reality for the city will be a loss of about $200,000 in 2020 from the loss of the Goats Peak housing project.

Coun. Bryden Winsby supported the new fee, saying new revenue sources will have to be found, or taxes will go up.

"Who has the magic wand, who around this table has a real good idea of how you can raise revenue?" he asked.

"Cutting expenses is a piece of cake, raising revenue is not."

Any franchise fee would have to receive assent from the electorate.

Coun. Duane Ophus said that would never happen anyway.

"It's a complete and total waste of time to think we will ever get it approved through an AAP or referendum," he said.

"We need to be open and transparent, and look for additional sources of revenue."

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