West Kelowna  

Some West Kelowna councillors believe tax increase excessive during these tough times

2021 budget tone deaf?

West Kelowna's 2021 budget, with its associated 4.05 per cent increase was described by some on city council as being tone deaf, and out of step with the financial hardship created by a worldwide pandemic.

Long-time councillors Doug Findlater and Rick de Jong both voted against third reading of the city's budget Tuesday, while Carol Zanon voted with those in favour, "but reluctantly."

"I think this is out of place. It seems to be oblivious to the fact there is a pandemic going on," said Findlater.

Zanon stated that, as a young city, it's understandable why higher tax levels are needed and, in normal times, would have had no problem with the increase.

"But, these are unusual times. People are facing pressures and an uncertain future," she said.

Zanon said reducing spending and the tax hit would be a way, to telling residents "we understand, we know how tough it is out there, we will do our best and show we care.

"And, we didn't do that."

de Jong voted no, saying he disapproved with the way the city was spending its surplus, believing it should have been used as a way to reduce taxes.

"4.05 per cent loses me," he said.

Taxation was initially set at 4.75 per cent in December, however, CFO Warren Everton said an increase in the growth forecast to 2.2 received from BC Assessment gave the city the ability to lower the overall rate by nearly a full point.

Everton says a 2.2 per cent growth rate means an additional $756,000 in tax generation.

In supporting the financial direction the city is laying out, Mayor Gord Milsom says council must carry on with what was presented, and voted on earlier.

"Timed and time again, our residents have expressed a need for investment in roads, storm drainage, investment in new sidewalks and active transportation," said Milsom.

"We have a lot of catch up to do, and this budget will allow us to move forward as we continue to add money to reserves.

"This new infrastructure fund will help. We still have rural areas that have to improve to urban infrastructure standards. I believe this is what our citizens want."

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