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Penticton residents will be hit with a 2.25% tax increase in 2021.
The increase will cost the average residential property owner an additional $164 in combined taxes and utilities next year, which works out to $14 per month.
Three days had been set aside for budget deliberations, but talks wrapped up Wednesday morning after just a day and a half of meetings at Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
Council passed staff recommendations without any major changes.
“The budget for 2021 didn’t start in the last couple weeks or the last month. Staff starts working with city council as soon as the year begins,” said mayor John Vassilaki of the brisk deliberations. “We’ve had many, many meetings where things are brought forward and we give staff, not advice, but coach them which direction city council is going. They put the budget in place, they come back to us, and we determine whether or not that’s what we want.
“The last two days we’ve actually voted in favour of all those things that we’ve been bringing forward to staff for the past four or five months. It’s been work going back many months.”
The only two amendments were a $9,800 reduction in grant spending and moving a planned $200 thousand expenditure on the Gyro Park washrooms from 2022 to 2021.
Council also dealt with the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant recently handed to the City of Penticton.
The entire amount, $4.7 million, will go into a new reserve fund so that it can be tracked for reporting purposes.
Just under $1 million will go to repay the city’s stabilization reserve, $1.3 million will go into the 2021 budget, and the rest will be set aside for a citizens’ advisory group to be used in future years.
“Part of the rationale in not spending it all today is that we don’t know how long the financial implications are going to be felt as a result of the pandemic,” offered CFO Jim Bauer. “What we are wanting to do is be cautious, provide moderate relief now, and keep some of those funds available for 2022 and potentially for future years if we’re seeing a very slow recovery coming out of the pandemic. We could see the financial effects for several years.
“We can use that $2.4 million anytime between now and whenever it’s necessary to be used. There’s no time limit.”
The budget for 2021 also includes five new positions, including a GIS developer, facilities carpenter, firefighter, engineer in training, and temporary sustainability co-ordinator.
Council also directed staff to set the business tax multiplier at a rate of 2.00 for 2021.
Council is expected to officially adopt the budget at its Dec. 8 meeting.