The Daily Courier
4% tax hike approved by 1 vote
Those in favour of the increase cited the need to build up the city’s reserves
A municipal tax increase of 4% has been approved by West
Kelowna city council.
Council voted 4-3 to approve the tax hike at a special budget meeting last week.
Mayor Gord Milsom described the increase as reasonable given what he hoped would be a more economically robust year.
“It was a tough year in 2020,” Milsom said. “This may not be the same. I think we need to have a leadership role here and move forward with projects. I think that will benefit the community.”
Voting in favour of the 4% hike were Milsom and councillors Stephen Johnston, Jayson Zilkie and Jason Friesen.
“I’m comfortable where we are,” Zilkie said. “I wouldn’t support going any lower than that.”
Against were councillors Doug Findlater, Carol Zanon and Rick DeJong.
“We’re still in the pandemic and we're looking at a very tough economy for many,” Findlater said. “There's many people who are certainly on the ropes and certain types of businesses don't know if they’ll be around in six months. We’re still in a crisis mode and we can’t carry on as if we're not.”
“There's lots of people out of work and maybe we haven’t seen the end of that. I would like to keep (the tax increase) below 4%,”
De Jong said he would have preferred the tax hike be 3.75%.
“We’re not going to make anybody rich by holding back, but it does send a message of support to the community, and that's important,” De Jong said.
The 4% tax hike includes a new 1% charge dedicated solely for infrastructure projects.
Councillors who supported the overall tax hike of 4% said it was important for West Kelowna to build up some financial reserves, which they said were low.
“I’m very concerned about the future when we look at the reserves,” Friesen said. “Those numbers scare me.
“It doesn't take long to chew through that.”
Friesen also said there wouldnt be much practical difference for an individual homeowner between a tax hike of 4% and a slightly lower amount favoured by some councillors.
“If they’re in dire straits right now, $6 isn’t going to make a difference,” Friesen said.
“I really don't see us in a position where we’re flush with cash or having the ability to lower taxes just for a novelty,” Johnston said.
“It’s self-serving to do that. It looks good in the media, but it doesn’t do anything for residents.”