I work with amazing people at city hall. We don’t always agree on issues, both big and small. A big issue on which I voted differently than the majority of my city council colleagues was the 2017 city budget.
I did not support the city budget this year. The majority of council did support it.
I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues and for the processes of council. After we vote on a matter, the general practice is to not criticize the decision after a vote.
I think it is appropriate, however, to explain why I voted against the budget. I will do this, while also trying to acknowledge and honour the views of my colleagues. I hope I’m successful.
The average annual tax increase, over the past decade in Kamloops, has been just under 2%. I’ve been comfortable using in and around 2% as a bit of a top end benchmark of where I feel comfortable supporting the budget.
We were coming in at 2.67% increase this year. And it’s forecast that the coming years may even be more financially challenging. This is out of my regular comfort zone.
One thing we may forget is the added utility costs (water, sewer, garbage / recycling). With our taxes and utility costs combine, the increase, this year, is around 2.2%. So, overall, less of an increase.
And, as we were crunching numbers and reviewing funding requests, a number of people contacted me to express their concerns about tax increases - even 2% tax increases. These citizens were mainly seniors on pensions who are concerned about the rising prices of most of their necessary expenditures and who don’t want to be forced to downsize before they are ready.
I did get a very nice email from a citizen advocating for a 4% increase to fund a lot of services and projects that enhance our quality of life in Kamloops. I totally get the pride and joy many people have in the quality of life in Kamloops. Council offers a lot of support for quality of life projects and services.
So, budget making in a community as diverse as Kamloops is a pretty delicate balancing act.
We did have the potential option of using some unallocated reserve funds to bring down the tax increase this year but council, as a whole, wanted to retain our flexibility to fund projects that come up between our annual budget approvals.
City staff has done great work with finding efficiencies in operations. I’d like to thoughtfully work to bring down the tax increases / utility costs proposed in future years.
I was thankful, at the last budget meeting, that we had quite a robust discussion on how we could productively engage in examining the 2018 city budget and look at possible options to offer some tax / utility fee relief to residents.