Vernon taxes are going up but not as much as first expected.
City council wrapped up three days of 2015 budget deliberations Friday by approving a 3.43 per cent tax increase — 1.53 for general operations and 1.9 per cent for infrastructure.
“Everyone is looking for the best way to operate the city and keep taxes down. It’s a tight budget,” said Mayor Akbal Mund.
The budget had originally called for an overall tax hike of 3.7 per cent, but some changes in expenditures were able to bring the number down.
“I like it (3.43 per cent) a whole lot better than the previous one,” said Coun. Scott Anderson, adding that it’s critical to maintain the infrastructure investment.
“I would like to see the operating costs go in the opposite direction.”
The actual impact of the 3.43 per cent tax increase on the average property has not been determined yet.
As part of the process Friday, there was considerable debate about spending $125,000 to update the city’s website.
“Is it really required?” said Coun. Bob Spiers.
However, Spiers’ colleagues made a push for the project.
“I’ve heard that our website is not user-friendly,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham, who says the site is used by businesses and residents.
Coun. Brian Quiring also pushed to have the site upgraded so businesses have access to information.
“Try to find a bylaw on the website, it’s brutally hard,” he said.
During the public input session, resident Jim Bodkin called for the number of bylaw compliance officers to be reduced.
“We are really heavy with bylaw officers. I’m not convinced we need that many,” he said.
“We need to get in line with other communities.”
However, Coun. Catherine Lord defended the city’s bylaw compliance department.
“Our officers are doing a fair bit of low level work the RCMP used to do and they are cheaper (to employ) than the RCMP,” she said.
The city’s 2015 budget bylaw will now go before council Feb. 10 for initial approval.