Tax increase predicted

The cost of running the municipality is expected to increase for the coming year.

Coun. Sam Elia, chair of the municipal finance committee, said the general fund for the year will be around $10 million.

At present, however, the finance committee is facing a $250,000 shortfall as collective bargaining agreements and cost increases are affecting the total cost.

“The objective this year is to get that down to a bare minimum,” he said. Elia said the committee has received a directive from council to try to bring that shortfall to less than $100,000 and preferably to no increase whatsoever.

In order to compensate for a $100,000 shortfall, the municipality would have to increase taxes by one per cent.

This tax increase would be considerably lower than the increases in previous years, but Elia said Summerlanders are still feeling the effects of past increases.

In the last two years, the tax increases were needed to complete capital projects.

In 2009, improvements were needed at the water treatment plant, while last year, road upgrades and work on the water separation project required funding.

This year, work will be started on a new facility for the Summerland RCMP detachment.

Elia said the municipality uses property tax increases for capital projects, money to reserve funds and increased operating expenses, in that order.

“Put the money into capital first,” he said. “We have a lot of old infrastructure in town.”

There are additional costs for the municipality. This year, there is a 1.5 per cent wage increase for local members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the result of a collective bargaining agreement.

Negotiations will also be held with the union representing electrical workers and a wage hike is expected there. Non-union staff and management will not receive a wage increase this year. Wages alone account for around 60 per cent of the budget, Elia said.

In addition to the expected tax increase, Summerlanders will be paying more through utility bills.

Two rate increases from FortisBC will see Summerland’s electrical rates increase by 11.6 per cent this year.

Increasing costs for water treatment and wastewater treatment will mean rates for those utilities will go up by two per cent each.