Regional budget under fire

By Joyce Langerak - Penticton Western News Published: February 28, 2009

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is working on a budget which at this point would see taxes go up 13.4 per cent.

That’s not acceptable, says Penticton Coun. John Vassilaki who also sits on the board of the RDOS.

Penticton pays 42 per cent of administrative cost for the RDOS, he explained. In the budget proposed for 2009, that number has gone up by about $220,000 — 15.5 per cent over last year. Along with other increases included in the budget draft, the total taxes would rise from $11,050,000 to $12,526,000 — an overall increase of 13.4 per cent.

“Those figures are not palatable to me,” said Vassilaki. “The City of Penticton is also trying for a zero increase. There’s no way on earth I’ll be voting in favour of such an increase when we’re trying at the city to make it zero.”

New items listed in the budget would cost about $355,000 including more than $37,000 for the Regional Growth Strategy, $150,000 for an agricultural wood waste chipping program and $45,000 for plastic recycling.

If the budget goes through, Penticton’s share would cost the city about $1,638,0000 and Summerland would have to come up with about $673,000 — up more than $93,000 over last year.

“We have six municipalities in the district and nine, electoral areas, including the Penticton Indian Band. All those electoral areas pay their own budget.” His concern is that the municipalities pay too much for RDOS administrative costs. “Municipalities pay a lot more than what the electoral areas are paying,” he said.

“They (RDOS) have got to go back to their departments and start cutting off all the fat like we’re doing in Penticton. In Penticton, we’re going through the budget line by line.”

For example, the city has cut back its hanging flower-basket budget from $60,000 to $30,000. “That’s how you cut. You’ve got to go through all the different departments, the parks, the planning, inspection, go through all those areas.”

West Bench area director Michael Brydon brought up the fact that the Okanagan Film Commission, which is requesting $50,000 for the coming year, is a business that has been around for about a decade and should be able to make it on its own. However, the budget includes $34,000 for the film commission, the same as in 2008.

What has been laid out is a budget for the next five years. “We look ahead five years, but it changes every year,” said Vassilaki. “What we do is we put on paper what we think is going to happen five years from now. But then, in reality, every year we bring in a new budget whatever the true numbers are going to be for that year.”

Another meeting will be held next Wednesday to further discuss the proposed budget which must be adopted by March 31.

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