Christian: Public input needed for city's budget

Ken Christian City Councillor / Kamloops Daily News
January 14, 2013 01:00 AM

This week marks the start of the public input portion of our annual budget cycle.

It is an opportunity for citizens to express their priorities for goods and services provided by the City of Kamloops.

What do we collectively value, what are the "must haves" and what are our ideas for future civic investment and future services.

As councillors, we have many ideas from many sources but these events are a chance to
validate those suggestions and see if they have wide broad based support from the community.

Although there is a great deal of focus on the budget as we approach the setting of the annual tax rate and approval of the preliminary budget, the budget process is actually an ongoing process.

We are paying attention all year long. Our finance department is continuously tracking and auditing expenses.

It produces forecasts and sets accounting rules for other departments to follow.

Each operating department begins in late summer to plan and cost out projects and
service-level requests that form the preliminary numbers that council eventually receives in later fall.

Council then reviews preliminary numbers and assembles a supplementary list of items recommended by administration, initiated by the public or suggested as items of interest by a member of council.

All of those items are estimated and those increased costs are expressed in a tax-rate adjustment.

Essentially, that is the change in the rate from the previous year's rate on the previous year's tax roll. Many things change year over year.

This year, that number is around four per cent. I believe that number is too high. So do many of my council colleagues.

Zero percent would be nice but 2.5 to three percent per cent is realistic given increases to fixed costs that we, like anyone else, must factor into our annual spending plan.

Kamloops has weathered the economic downtown better than most communities. Our modest annual growth rate of around 1.25 per cent has been fairly steady through this rough five-year period since 2008.

It is a delicate recovery and I think we as councillors need to keep a tight watch on the tax rate to ensure we do not derail this recovery.

We need to balance the costs fairly between businesses, industries, institutions, residential taxpayers, user groups and individuals using City services.

We need to take care not to raise expectations for large grants, staff increases, tax
subsidies or service agreement increases.

We need to look at the revenue side of the ledger, reviewing permit charges, rental rates, fares, fines and yes, Mel Rothenburger, even parking fees.

In order to do this in a way that best represents the views of citizens, we need to hear from you. Come to a meeting this month, call us, send us a letter or send us an email.

My colleagues and I assure you that all input will be reviewed and carefully weighed before we reach our final decisions. Together we make a better Kamloops!

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