About 35 people missed watching the Vancouver Canucks drop an overtime decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Instead, they braved snowy streets to attend the city’s final public meeting of the 2019 budget cycle, when they joined city staff and council in the Valley First Lounge at Sandman Centre to discuss everything from transit to interface fire protection and — you guessed it — McArthur Island.
Residents gave feedback on supplemental budget items, which have yet to be decided upon by council, and planted seeds for the future.
“I just think it’s important citizens know what’s happening,” Sheila Park said when asked why she attended.
The city’s corporate services director, Kathy Humphrey, outlined a list of 13 supplemental budget items which, if approved, would increase the provisional tax hike, which is currently set at a 2.3 per cent and is expected to hit the average Kamloops household (assessed at $408,000) by about $48.
Should all provisional items be approved and be funded as per staff recommendations, about one per cent would be tacked on to the rate. Humphrey noted Kamloops’ provisional tax rate is low compared to other B.C. communities, such as Vernon (5.6 per cent), Kelowna (4.4 per cent) and Vancouver (4.5 per cent). However, British Columbians already face increasing taxes this year, from the Employers Health Tax to increased carbon tax and FortisBC and ICBC hikes.
“I pay taxes in Kamloops, as does everyone else on council,” Mayor Ken Christian told residents. “We are conscious of a lot of the pressures that are out there for citizens. In particular, citizens on fixed income. That does not escape any of us on city council.”
Speaking with KTW, Christian said two themes emerged from the night: those who don’t want to see taxes increase and other who want expenditures, particularly when it comes to active transportation.
Thompson Rivers University student Mico Miege-Moffat supports the city’s proposal to add 3,000 transit hours. The expansion would cost the city $37,400 in the first year from taxation and $112,250 per year going forward, depending on vehicle requirements and how additional hours are implemented.
“I would like to see, kind of like an expansion of what the No. 9 is doing right now,” he said. “More buses coming and going regularly, every 15 minutes, that’s awesome. Maybe expand it to the North Shore exchange or the No. 7.”
Former city councillor Donovan Cavers, an alternative transportation advocate, is also optimistic about the proposed transit hours, in addition to increased funding for active transportation projects. Should council approve spending $365,000 annually beginning this year, its current 25-year plan for pedestrian and cycling projects would be completed five years earlier.
“We want to have more vibrancy and healthy options for people in the community,” Cavers said.
Also in attendance on Thursday was Kamloops Disc Golf Club president Ben Laidlaw, who came to support a nature park and disc golf course proposal on McArthur Island. Council has already gave the project a green light, but the financing has yet to be approved.
The city is proposing a three-year, multi-phased project to transform the former golf course land, starting with $198,000 in the first year to remove old infrastructure, clean up the seven-hectare site, construct paths, refurbish the mini-golf course and add an 18-hole disc golf course.
“There’s been some talk online, obviously, there’s the usual kind of back and forth that’s been going on for the last while, but we’re excited for the support and we think it’s going to be a good project moving forward,” Laidlaw said.
City parks manager Jeff Putnam said one resident asked that cyclocross, a multi-surface biking route, be included in the McArthur Island park space, which could parallel the disc golf course. The idea will not be considered during this budget cycle.
Other residents turned up to oppose a proposed public market in Riverside Park, to request recycling improvements, to argue for fast-tracking of the TRU overpass and to ask for interface fire protection on private land. Coun. Dieter Duty said the city could lobby the provincial government to legislate or incentivize private landowners to clean up their properties and reduce the risks.
Council will decide on supplemental budget items in early March. Residents can continue to provide input online at letstalk.kamloops.ca/budget until later this month.
Provisional property tax increase in various B.C. communities:
- Port Moody: 7.4 per cent
- Mission: 6.9 per cent
- Vernon: 5.57 per cent
- Nanaimo 5 per cent
- Prince George: 5 per cent
- Revelstoke: 5 per cent
- Saanich: 4.97 per cent
- Vancouver: 4.5 per cent
- Kelowna: 4.4 per cent
- Victoria: 3.76 per cent
- West Kelowna: 3 per cent
- Kamloops: 2.3 per cent (3.3 per cent, should council approve all supplemental items and funding sources as currently recommended by staff)