Confronted with a hefty 3.91 per cent preliminary tax increase in the 2013 budget, city council reached for the shears Tuesday, hoping to prune expenditures deemed non-essential.
If the tax increase were to be implemented, the average homeowner with a $340,000 home would be looking at a total increase of $83.70 this year.
An additional $3 million in operating and capital requests would push that tax increase to a whopping 7.34 per cent, but the annual budget-trimming sideshow has only begun.
"I'm sure that raised some eyebrows," said Sally Edwards, director of finance.
However, the city can draw on its surplus to drive down that increase. Last May, it was forecast that the 2013 budget would require a five per cent increase even with a $2.6-million draw from the budget surplus.
"The numbers are large, and knowing the people around the table, I don't think they're going to stay where they're at," said Mayor Peter Milobar.
Taxes from a projected $172 million in new construction will help moderate the tax increase by an estimated $1.3 million. The projection includes no change in water rates but sewer rates and garbage fees would both go up five per cent.
Edwards said some of the projected increase is due to an increase in the principal interest payment on the city's debt. The city's RCMP contract ($1.19 million), combined with wages and benefits ($1.17 million) and expanded transit service are among other cost-increase items.
Two more RCMP officers are sought to bring the complement to 120, beefing up domestic violence and mental health programs. Insp. Jenny Latham told council that demands are rising in both areas.
In addition, the city is considering hiring nine more staff, though some of those are consulting positions with payback promised.
Coun. Marg Spina questioned capital requests for a hydrovac truck ($475,000) plus two staff and a septic truck ($250,000) plus one staff member. David Duckworth, corporate services and community safety director, said the expenditure will have a two-year payback with a $100/hr. savings over contracted services.
Another costly capital request calls for replacement of the 20-year-old Canada Games Pool roof at a cost of $340,000. The most costly capital request is for conversion of John Tod elementary into a community centre ($1.5 million), although Kamloops Y and the Boys and Girls Club will be chipping in $250,000 each.
An odour bed for the River Street pump station, a community request, has a $340,000 price-tag.
Coun. Ken Christian wondered why City Hall's front steps couldn't wait at a cost of $60,000.
"What's with the steps at City Hall? I've used them. They seem to work."
The steps are deteriorating with rebar and cracks showing, staff explained.
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Jan. 15: More budget discussions with council
Jan. 22, 29 and Feb. 5: public consultation meetings
March 12: Council budget meeting
April 9: 2013 tax rates set by council
By May 15: Adopt financial plan and tax rates bylaw