Mark your calendars — the city starts this year’s budget discussion on Wednesday, Nov. 27, at the Sports Centre Lounge on McArthur Island.
If there was ever a time to engage with council, it would be then and at the subsequent public meetings we will have as we move forward to determine what your costs will be to continue operating the city we all call home.
Council colleague Mike O’Reilly mentioned recently a conversation he had with someone with questions — and some viewpoints — on the city’s taxes. O’Reilly asked the person a pretty basic question: Do you know what your taxes pay for?
I’m betting there are many people who don’t know exactly what those property taxes pay for, making this a great opportunity to share that information.
Our biggest expense is police, which covers about 16.5 per cent of the city’s budget. In dollars, it totalled $30,489,196 last year.
Policing is also one of the items councillors hear about most often. What are they doing about theft? Why aren’t they arresting street-level drug dealers? Why can’t they stop all the thefts of and from cars?
With four shifts and, most of the time, a complement of about 130 officers — and officers involved in major crime investigations, administrative work and other necessary tasks — there are usually just a few dozen Mounties on the streets at any given time.
Next on the list of costs is firefighting, coming in at about 10.5 per cent of the city’s budget, or $19,088,739. It is another area we have had requests to grow; I’ve heard from people in Westsyde and Dallas who want their fire halls permanently staffed.
That comes with a cost.
Transit is third among big-ticket items at 9.3 per cent of the city’s budget, or $17,093,458.
But I won’t bore you with the ongoing feedback we get on the city’s bus service.
Suffice to say many people want to see it expanded.
That also comes with a cost.
Water costs cover just about nine per cent of the city’s budget, or $16,349,636, while streets take seven per cent ($12,736,1129) and sewer service costs 6.96 per cent ($11,274,794).
We hear a lot about streets, too, almost always asking for them to be repaired or potholes dealt with — and there’s no doubt that is essential work, as well, but roadwork costs money.
Other places your tax dollars go include: city administration, six per cent ($11,128,804); solid waste, 5.5 per cent ($10,141,804); recreation and culture, 5.3 per cent ($9,645,925); parks and play fields, 4.4 per cent ($8,053,126); community planning and development, three per cent ($5,582,788); legislative and bylaws, 2.9 per cent ($5,285,986); arenas, 2.5 per cent ($4,537,811); debt-servicing costs, 3.3 per cent ($5,985,800); pools and the Tournament Capital Centre, 2.9 per cent ($5,278,102); infrastructure maintenance, 1.8 per cent ($3,355,377); city facilities, 1.8 per cent ($3,219,318); and drainage, 1.8 per cent ($3,348,457).
It’s important to note water, sewer and solid waste, while part of the overall budget, are paid for through utility charges.
The final budget comes to $183,101,337.
Here’s hoping this helps you when you head to one of our public budget meetings.
Every extra thing you want — community centres, parks, more stop lights, increased policing — is an extra cost that will have an impact on the tax rate we set next year.
That doesn’t mean you should not ask. Please do. It is how we grow our city.
Just remember everything has a cost.
Dale Bass is a Kamloops city councillor.