City looking for money saving avenues ahead of tabling 2019 budget

By Dylana Milobar
December 5, 2018 - 3:32pm Updated: December 5, 2018 - 5:22pm

KAMLOOPS — As Kamloops taxpayers start paying close attention to just how much their costs will increase this year, part of that swell is actually out of the city's hands.

City council passed the provisional budget yesterday (Dec. 4), with a planned 3.38 per cent increase.

In February, the provincial government implemented an employer's health payroll tax, meaning the city now has to cover employees' MSP premiums.

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian says that addition represents a large portion of fixed costs for taxpayers.

"Its a 3.38 per cent increase. Of that, fully 1.2 per cent I equate to downloading from the provincial government. The biggest piece of that is the employers health tax," Christian explains. "We also have some increases in fixed costs. So things like Hydro, ICBC, new requirements from WorkSafe BC, and the carbon tax."

While increases coming from the provincial side of government are common, the mayor notes that this year in particular will be tight financially, so those at City Hall are digging deep to find places they can save money.

"So better street snowplowing, better potholing, better streetsweeping, better attention in our parks and those places."

It will be somewhat of a juggling act for city council to keep tax increases low, while maintaining day-to-day operations, and bringing in supplemental items like more pickleball courts, outdoor skating rinks, and nature parks. 

"This is a year that is going to be very tight for the City of Kamloops, and it means that we're going to have to look for other ways to cut," Christian says. "And it means that supplemental items are going to have a very uphill climb in terms of getting approved in this particular budget year."

That being said, Christian says what could alleviate some of the costs would be assessment roles, such as new housing starts that are a tax-able stage in construction. 

"Whether those new buildings have reached the assessment role yet, we don't know, but I'm sure there will be some uptake there," he explains. "And we have to look at the prior year surplus, so we haven't finished 2018 yet, and we have to finish that, close out those books, before we see what impact that might have in terms of lessening the budget amount and the hit per door in Kamloops."

In the meantime, city staff will be looking at ways to cut costs until the final budget is passed in the spring of 2019.

Canada Games torch blazes through Kamloops