West Kelowna  

West Kelowna dips into savings to fund three new staffing positions

Tax increase goes no higher

There was no appetite around the West Kelowna council table to see taxes go any higher than the 6.85 per cent increase already on the table.

At the same time, council also agreed with rationale put forward by interim CEO Ron Mattiussi that three new staff positions needed to implement the province's new housing legislation needed to be filled and funded.

Speaking to council Tuesday, Mattiussi said the city is focusing on long-range planning, infrastructure engineer, and an energy GIS analyst to determine where in the city we can accommodate the higher density units.

"This is not trivial. You don't add four units to a single family lot easily in all parts of the city," said Mattiussi.

"If the positions are not funded long-range staff will be pulled in to supplement the staff to get some of these things in place."

In essence, he says, it would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul and would significantly slow down the development process.

New positions critical

Mattiussi said the positions are critical and leaving council with two options. Funding the positions through taxation and adding nearly a full per cent to the budget, or fund them through the city's unallocated surplus reserve.

"By doing that there would not be a tax increase this year, but those positions would be annualized next year which means you are starting at a higher level next year."

Council unanimously approved dipping into the surplus.

"I believe the 6.85 per cent increase that council has considered is where we should stay," said Mayor Gord Milsom.

"It's not proper, it's not right at this point in the budget process particularly after we have gone through the engagement process with the public."

Milsom says while pushing to cost down the road is not ideal, at least council will know where they stand when preparing the 2025 budget.

"But we really need to go ahead because we need to address the housing needs in our community," said Milsom.

Grant denied

The issue came to the forefront after the city was turned down recently for a CMHC housing accelerator fund grant.

Included within that grant was a request for three positions that would have been funded for up to three years.

"There were three planning positions that really focused on implementing the official community plan particularly related around housing and housing needs," said Mattiussi.

West Kelowna was not one of the municipalities approved for that grant.

"There were a number of criteria. This was a very aggressive program. The minister was looking for municipalities that were shovel ready and could deliver the housing now.

"If you look at West Kelowna all of the initiatives of the grant are there but they are not fully implemented."

He said Kelowna was the only city in the interior to receive the grant because they are there, they have more staff, more resources.

They are more "shovel ready" than we are," he added.

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