Penticton city councillors Katie Robinson and Julius Bloomfield defended the proposed 8.5 per cent tax increase during Tuesday’s council meeting.
The Downtown Penticton Association and the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce both came out against the tax hike and made presentions before city council on Tuesday.
Coun. Robinson pointed to how the city had previously either delayed or reduced tax increases, such as in 2020 where council voted to cut the increase from 2.25 to 1.75 per cent.
“Therein lies our problem as that’s not sustainable. If you don’t keep up with inflation you fall behind and then there are cuts to services,” said Robinson.
Both the DPA and Chamber were calling on the council to reduce the tax hike included in the final municipal budget for 2022, with the DPA calling for a freeze on tax or utility increases for 2022. The Chamber called for limits of two per cent to pay for either community safety spending or inflation.
“We believe there is a balanced approach to taxation and the use of reserves. We’re not suggesting no tax increase and just utilizing all the previous reserves, that’s not prudent. We understand that all we’re doing is pushing of taxation to a future generation if we do that,” said Chamber president Jonathan McGraw. “We just ask that there is some consideration of any tax increase.”
McGraw pointed to potential expenditures that could be delayed, such as the next phase of the Lake-to-Lake bike lane, as well as delaying the budget inclusion for RCMP officers until they actually arrive in the city.
The DPA went beyond just calling for no tax increase and also added that they were requesting the city use their reserves to offer a tax rebate to residents and businesses in the community.
“We still have four officers in waiting that we haven’t received yet, and we can’t stop asking for them because if we find ourselves in the position we’re in now, where we’re in catch-up mode to try and do something about crime in town,” said Robinson.
Robinson did add that the budget is in a draft state, and that such drafts tend to be higher than the final products as well as that council would be taking into consideration the cost to residents.
“I’m listening to the presentations here and hearing about how the rising costs and inflation are affecting businesses, and we feel the same pain,” said Coun. Bloomfield. “The fuel costs alone, the machinery costs, the chemical costs for water treatment have risen dramatically. If we follow your request and limit to two per cent to allow for inflation then something has to give.”
Bloomfield ended his response by noting that if the city were to hold to just two per cent inflationary increase, as the Chamber requested as a target for the budget, it would lead to service cuts.
The budget is currently undergoing the initial public feedback stage. Submit your feedback either online through shapeyourcitypenticton.ca or physically through forms available from info kiosks at City Hall and the Penticton Library.
City council will debate the specifics of the budget following the feedback during their deliberations on Nov. 22 and 23.
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