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Council agrees to trim tax hike

Vernon taxes aren’t going up as much as expected.

A majority of council voted Monday to lower the proposed 2007 tax hike from 2.84 to two per cent.

“Two per cent is reasonable. It’s slightly above the cost of living,” said Coun. Pat Cochrane, who pushed for the tax increase to be considered further by his colleagues.

Cochrane is convinced residents need a break.

“We’ve had some serious increases in the past. This is something that’s reasonable,” he said, adding that the city is also facing considerable pressure for infrastructure works.

“Hopefully this will allow us to do more of the needed projects.”

Two per cent will mean an additional $15 in taxes for the average residence.

Cochrane garnered the support of Mayor Wayne Lippert.

“Two per cent is reasonable,” he said, adding that day-to-day operations can continue despite lowering the tax rate.

“We’re not hurting services. We’re just looking at how capital projects will be done.”

Two major expenses have been removed from the 2007 budget — $300,000 for a taxiway extension at the airport and $230,000 for the official community plan review.

Both items will still likely proceed, but the money for the OCP review will come from surplus funds generated through building permit fees, while money may be borrowed for the airport project.

The only opposition to reducing the tax increase to two per cent was from Councillors Barry Beardsell and Juliette Cunningham. For both of them, it didn’t go far enough.

“We could have reduced it even further if we debated some of the issues (budget items) further,” said Cunningham.

That is also the view of Beardsell, who says other agencies are planning on hiking their taxes and that will impact residents.

“With the budgets coming out of the North Okanagan Regional District, that all comes into the picture.”

Staff has been instructed to look at ways of restoring some items recently cut as part of reducing spending by one per cent.

“They are very minor — $3,000 for sidewalk grinding and extra staff time at tax season,” said Cochrane.

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