City passes 2014 Budget

The City of Penticton has adopted its 2014 financial plan including a 2% tax increase – the first budget increase in four years and the lowest tax rate change in almost 10 years.

“The City of Penticton did not raise taxes for three years, cutting spending even when faced with significant cost pressures from contracts and inflation. This is a testament to the hard work of Council and staff,” said Mayor Garry Litke. “Our residents have said strongly they want to see continued investment into their roads and community. This budget balances the need for sound infrastructure and prudent financial management.”

This is the first budget increase proposed by the City of Penticton in four years, as budgets for the 2013 and 2012 years all passed with 0% increases. In 2011, the City of Penticton actually reduced taxes by 0.5%. This tax rate increase remains below the 25-year average of 2.15%, and is less than half the 10-year high of 5% in 2007.

The change in 2014 means a $26.98 increase in annual taxes for the average assessed home of $350,000, or $2.25 per month.

Annual budget deliberations for the municipality take multiple days to go through, and cover a wide array of spending decisions in both operating and capital budgets. Highlights from the 2014 Budget include:

  • Recreation Penticton was $150,000 under budget in 2014, and has managed to reduce its subsidy by more than $750,000 since 2009.
  • The South Okanagan Events Centre and Penticton Trade and Convention Centre had a banner year in 2013, and despite the cyclical nature of the industry, are forecasting a further $116,263 reduction in city subsidy. This amount is significant, as the SOEC complex has reduced its subsidy by $918,000 – almost $1 million from 2009 levels – while generating tax revenue for the City and $33.9 million in economic activity for the local economy.
  • Investments of $405,400 for sidewalk improvements in several parts of the community were approved.
  • Downtown revitalization moves ahead with construction anticipated on Westminster Avenue and Martin Street, as well as consultation and design of Main Street.
  • A $6 million investment into 12KV transformer upgrades at the Westminster Substation to enhance capacity in the Electric Utility system was approved, to provide more robust system flexibility in the event backup measures are required.
  • Continuation of phased roof repair at Memorial Arena, to ensure the historic sheet of ice is preserved for community use.
  • Investment of $250,000 in animal control facilities was approved.
  • Investment of $120,000 in traffic signal improvements in school zones to improve the safety of children walking to school was approved.
  • Upgrades to the Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant to construct a new fermenter, worth $2.12 million, were approved.

All budget presentations are available on the City website, and budget sessions were streamed live on the site as they happened. City staff also monitored Twitter on the @cityofpenticton account using hashtag #penbudget14 for feedback. During the sessions, the City of Penticton received recognition from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business on social media for the City's transparent budgeting process.

Three readings of the budget bylaw were passed at a special Council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 2, and final adoption passed during a special meeting Friday, Jan. 3.