Going through the fine details doesn’t mean Vernonites should expect to pay less in taxes.
Council spentWednesday and Thursday going through divisional reports as part of the proposed 2014 city budget.
“All departments have been fiscally responsible and they have followed council’s strategic plan,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.
“I don’t see any significant change taking place.”
The budget calls for a 3.7 per cent tax increase — 1.8 per cent for operations and 1.9 per cent for infrastructure.
Staffing levels are being reduced and some departments have been reorganized.
“We are protecting the level of services enjoyed by our ratepayers,” sad Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.
“Administration is pushing to increase efficiencies.”
The budget calls for $1 million annually in road surfacing and $800,000 being invested in recreation facilities.
“Vernon is not Montreal or Toronto where roads and bridges have deteriorated. We are protecting infrastructure,” said Pearce.
As part of transparency, Pearce points out that shifting regional functions, such as parks, to the city will show up on tax notices.
“Vernon tax rates will likely increase 17 to 19 per cent but the regional district requisition will decrease 15 to 17 per cent. Overall for all services, we are effectively balancing out,” he said.
All departments have been asked to fall within a 1.8 per cent increase to their internal budget. That has proven challenging for the RCMP.
“For 2014, the RCMP treasury board salary increase is two per cent. We had to find the difference between the 1.8 and two per cent through cost savings,” said Supt. Reg Burgess, the officer in charge of the local RCMP detachment.
“I am confident we can do so without a reduction in crime.”
It’s expected about $191,000 will be saved through restructuring recreation services, but officials say there will be increased maintenance at facilities like Kal Tire Place and the Vernon Recreation Complex.
“We are always trying to keep on top of things. We are reallocating resources,” said Doug Ross, recreation services manager.
Members of council will receive public input on the proposed 2014 budget one last time today at 11 a.m. at city hall.