City budget input 2023

Links to videos & more info:

Special Meeting, December 5, 2022 – video

… waiting for the 11:00am public input opportunity…

Click here to learn more about the City of Vernon budget process & download the City’s draft Financial Plan

Grant Cummings – increasing residential sewer rates:
Dawn Tucker – morning session:

My first comment was about the format of public input at these budget discussions. I am a bit disappointed that Council is voting on changes prior to hearing the public, as these public input sessions are only held at 11am and 3pm today. In previous years, budget decisions were delayed until after all public input was received.

(In response, the Mayor clarifies that Council will review their budget decisions again in a summarized format after public input has closed after 3pm.)

Read more below & find a link to my second video, from the 3pm public input session.

Snow Clearing and Accessibility

  • Folks often contact me about the City not clearing the sidewalks, also the parking spaces, letdowns, bus stops, etc.
  • It is next to impossible for mobility-impaired folks to get around downtown during snowfall events, or if they park in cars, to get out over the snow rows to access a partially cleared sidewalk.
  • Snow needs to be removed – how much is the responsibility of the merchants, from their building to the sidewalk or curb?
  • We need everyone’s help here to help folks get around downtown during the winter.
  • Is there specific budget for snow clearing in BIA’s 1&2 (BIA = Business Improvement Area) and is it sufficient?
  • Instead of being reactive, be proactive: could the City involve the DVA in garnering solutions? For example, having a program to shovel the core using the same folks involved with Folks on Spokes, or contracting with Venture Training as the City already does in some areas. Businesses are often closed on Sundays and Mondays in the core, and many times sidewalks aren’t shovelled to the curb.

Climate Action Year Round

  • The City continues to make more multi-use paths available, which is great.
  • The public has contacted me often about clearing paths throughout the fall, winter and spring. On weekends and holidays, it seems paths are not cleared and thus snow and ice can build up.
  • In order to meet our climate action goals, these multi-use paths must be available year-round for commuting and GHG-friendly transportation. Snow-clearing and ice removal needs to happen more regularly, and definitely also on weekends and holidays.
  • Has the City established priorities for sidewalks and multi-use paths and is the budget sufficient to meet the standards the citizens desire?

Reclaimed Water Usage

  • Could our City please look into lobbying the Province to allow our high quality reclaimed water to be used to irrigate food crops?
    • I requested a letter to the province to lobby for the government to allow reclaimed water to be used on food crops
  • The City’s irrigation rates have been frozen for  many years now, and the financial impacts of freezing these rates was not calculated when the 2018 decision was made to freeze rates from 2022 through 2026.
  • The City’s costs to make reclaimed water only increases over time. That cost is much higher than what we get back in sales of reclaimed water.  Could we please have a look at how irrigation rates are set? According to the Province of BC, local governments must set fees so that “the amount of a fee should be sufficient to recover costs of a service and ensure its future sustainability. Fees are generally applied on a user-pay basis, so only those who benefit from the service bear the fee.”

Boat Launch without Drainage Improvement

  • Two boat launches are to be replaced in the Spring of 2023 
  • A problem drainage exists above the launch at 8835 Okanagan Landing Road that is likely to blow out any superficial repairs made to the toe of the boat launch.
  • A mapped stream runs through this neighbourhood.
  • How much is budgeted to resolve this drainage problem that also causes the flooding of public roads and private properties every year for months on end?

Raising Residential Sewer Rates, Building the ALC – it all adds up

  • Residential sewer rates were already set to rise 3% every year for 5 years, and now an additional 2.5% increase will be applied. Added up, residential sewer rates will have increased a whopping 18% by 2026.
  • By 2026, the average Vernon family will pay an extra $100 per year for sewer, and an extra $300 per year in property taxes for the Active Living Centre.

City Council is now facing an uphill battle to raise sufficient revenue over the next 5 years.

Dawn Tucker – afternoon session:

How much more can we raise taxes?  Is this considered “fiscally responsible”?

After having reduced Development Cost Charges (DCCs) and removing more than $111 million worth of community projects from getting funded by developers, I wonder how this Council expects to address this ever-widening gap? You simply cannot tax residents that much more. 

Is Development paying for itself?

Development Cost Charges (DCCs) are monies that are collected from land developers by a municipality, to offset some of the infrastructure expenditures incurred, to service the needs of new development

While other communities are raising DCCs, in 2020 Vernon City Council voted to reduce ours. Compared to Peachland, Penticton, Summerland, our DCCs are 20 to 30% lower. Considering the blistering pace of development and the increasing cost of everything, I do not believe it is necessary – nor wise – for our community to reduce DCCs. Our DCCs ought to be competitive with other communities in the valley, not lower.

Development ought to pay for itself and help build our community, not demand subsidies from our local government.

It is time for our corporate citizens to pay rates & fees that reflect the actual cost for our City to deliver the services.