Mayor’s Minute

December 19, 2019

On behalf of my colleagues on Council and our staff at the City, I would like to wish all Penticton residents a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

Of the 12 months we experience each year, December’s arrival triggers a trio of thoughts – thoughts involving the past, thoughts about the present and thoughts to the future.  This attention to time makes December a natural month for key decisions, and when it comes to the City, no decision is more important than setting the annual budget.

Earlier this month, Council completed three days of deliberations on the City’s 2020 to 2024 Financial Plan, a process that began this spring with the results of the Citizen Survey identifying Penticton’s most pressing interests.  Having heard those interests, Council used them to create three strategic priorities – Asset and Amenity Management, Community Safety and Community Design – and then directed staff to carry them out. 

The Citizen Survey was also clear on the subject of taxation. When asked about raising revenue to pay for rising service costs, increasing taxes was the third least favored option. 

For 2020, staff would need to propose a tolerable tax increase, a figure that accounted for 2% inflation, while providing a modest amount for growth - 3 per cent, or less.

And finally, during a meeting this fall, Councilors brought forward individual Notices of Motion identifying specific projects and initiatives, for consideration during the budget deliberations.

Based on this strategic direction and fiscal expectations, staff rolled out a budget process that began in August and concluded in December.  Include along the way were:

  • $18 million in general capital requests, with staff proposing $9 million;
  • $1.1 million in grant and partnership requests to fit into a proposed $.6 million budget;
  • 20 staffing requests, reduced to proposed 7 new positions
  • Over $4 million in operating requests – proposed $2.1 million general increase

Mid way through the budget process Notice of Motions were also welcomed by Council identify specific projects and initiatives within the Council priorities that they would like to see advanced.

Staff worked hard to rationalize these various requests and the approved notice of motions to fit everything within the Council’s fiscal expectations.

At the end of the day Council set clear direction and expectations up front. Staff followed that direction and provided a proposed budget. Over the course of three days Council deliberated and discussed the proposed budget and the conclusion reached is staff effectively did their job to deliver a proposed budget that aligned with the expectation that met Council’s expectations.

As an alternative staff could have proposed a “padded budget” with extra items for Council to cut during the deliberations – to create a good show, however neither Council or staff felt that we a good use of everyone’s time.

John Vassilaki

Mayor of Penticton