Recovery from financial crisis

Some thoughts on how to recover from the city’s financial crisis.

First: Council cancel your medical and dental coverage a $7,000 annual cost to the city.  You could easily afford to take an additional one thousand a year out of your $24,000 plus or minus a year stipends. The city’s share of your medical coverage is about the same as the proposed fee increases at the Cleland Theatre, the museum auditorium and the  facilities at the Penticton Community Pool.

Second: Cancel the 10 year program of property tax exemption on new development.  The main benefactors to that program are the people who will buy into the properties and be free of paying their share of taxes towards the cost of running the city for the next 10 years.  You could have covered the proposed four to five per cent property tax increase your now facing if you didn’t have this ridiculous property tax exemption. Plus put development cost charges back where they should be, so you can recover the actual staff cost to administer them. The city should not be paying for profit driven private development with tax dollars.

Third: Stop wasting dollars on bylaw enforcement officers having to drive around the city counting chickens.

Fourth: Allow the tennis club to lease back their building which is now becoming derelict and an eyesore. The lease was around $15,000 annually. Three of you on council voted to substantially increase their lease, a price the club couldn’t afford. Revenue the city lost through poor negotiations.

Fifth: Cancel the proposed relocation and construction of a new casino. It is a ridiculous location, causing loss of South Okanagan Events Centre parking and traffic congestion. Start some serious negotiations at leasing the convention centre to the casino. The convention business has become too competitive and too costly for the city. The city can no longer compete and make a profit with conventions (annual $889,000 a year subsidy).

The casino would save millions from having to build new, plus they would have a covered access from the SOEC through to the casino and adequate parking. The city should negotiate the casino paying for the renovations under a 30-year lease, be sure to include the parking as well.

This lease would be an immediate $889,000 annual saving for the city, over and above that, the lease dollars from the casino could potentially put an additional half-million per year into the city’s budget. This move alone would cover more than the proposed 2016 tax increase. The biggest benefit to this change of use, the SOEC could also become debt free, another saving for the city.

Sixth: Council, you substantially increased the economic development budget in 2015, around $800,000. Has this substantial increased funding given any returns on that investment, other than create loud public criticism? If not, you can afford to take $200,000, off their annual budget. More dollar saving than meters will bring in?

Seventh: Start looking seriously about the cost of regional government (RDOS). Penticton contributes the most to their budget and yet our city councillors on their board still can’t vote on any development on West Bench, Carmi, East Side Road or Naramata.

Why should this governance be changed? Penticton taxpayers have to construct and reconstruct the roads to accommodate the increased traffic outside our present boundaries. The provincial government took away the secondary road funding from municipalities.  Penticton also provides Carmi, West Bench with fire protection. Plus residents outside our boundaries contribute zero taxes to the city’s (costly) recreational amenities and yet pay the same fees as a city property owner pays. Of course these outlying areas help to support the city’s economy, but they don’t pay taxes towards the roads, recreation amenities and the ever-increasing cost of maintaining the city’s infrastructure. Result, municipalities are faced with ever increasing demands to accommodate the increase in regional growth.  Start raising this issue with the provincial government. It’s a sound argument, we have two levels of local government that are crossing jurisdictions and costing way too much to administer.

Finally: Drop the court action against the firefighters settlement, that issue has already been fought and lost long ago. Give up the fight on the Skaha waterslide, which if ever constructed, I guarantee will have to be torn down by some future council.

In closing, if you look seriously at any of the above to help the city recover from the financial crisis you helped to create, it may save you from the level of angry city residents if they have to pay for parking on Okanagan Lake and Skaha Beach waterfronts.

Jake Kimberley

Penticton