The City’s of Vernon’s 2019 budget is big on safety.
Mayor Victor Cumming says council has endorsed the financial plan after two days of budget meetings.
“Council has responded to the community’s desire to see additional investment in public safety,” says Cumming. “It was a theme that we heard loud and clear during the election campaign, and we have responded by increasing investment in Police, Fire and Bylaw services. We have endorsed a safety budget.”
The 2019 budget recommends a budget increase of 5.3%. This increase includes 1.9% going towards the ongoing infrastructure levy, 1.41% will be used to fund the additional RCMP officers, and 1.99% will be used for operational costs.
“The additional investment by Council in public safety combined with the addition of 46 shelter beds and 52 affordable long-term bachelor apartments will help increase community safety for all residents of Vernon,” says Cumming.
The mayor says the 5.3% increase translates to an extra $73 for the average homeowner.
Cumming tells Beach Radio News he expects some push back from residents on the increase:
By transferring fire dispatch service to Kelowna Fire Department’s fire dispatch centre we have redirected the funds to pay for an additional four firefighters. Vernon Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) will also receive funds to modernize the fire prevention and inspection program. Over the last few years the City of Vernon has committed to a thoughtful and strategic plan to build capacity within VFRS and this budget provides the support to continue that work.
Bylaw Compliance Services
The seasonal summer enforcement program was a success over the past three years and funding has been provided to continue the program to ensure Bylaw Compliance officers patrol and respond to complaints in the downtown core, parks and public places to address the street entrenched, transient, overnight temporary sheltering and homeless. Bylaw Compliance recently moved to a more visible location in downtown in the parkade. The budget provides for four part time bylaw officers ($85k).
In addition council has approved three pilot projects:
Anti-Tag Team to focus on unwanted graffiti
Folks on Spokes and Sharps Hotline, where residents can call a number and a team of trained volunteers on bicycles will attend the scene with retrieval kits, remove discarded needles, and transport safely to the host agency for proper disposal. The program will run in cooperation with NOYFSS and Upper Room Mission.
Weekly clean-up program, which will focus on removal of discarded sharps and paraphernalia, downtown and alley cleanup and education.
The focus on hiring additional RCMP members for the Vernon/ North Okanagan Detachment is proceeding, with an additional six officers slated to start work in Vernon before the end of the year.
Major capital projects recommended in the new budget fall into the following categories:Roadway projects – $9.3m
Wastewater projects – $4.7m
Drainage projects – $5.1m
Parks projects – $1.3m
Facility projects – $750k
Airport projects – $600k
Some of the larger projects include:
30th Street Road Improvement and Utility Reconstruction, the final phase to connect Polson Park to downtown to the Village Green Mall and 48thAve. – $5.8m
48th Avenue Drainage and Road Rehabilitation to reconstruct a deteriorated storm sewer and roadway, including a lift station and a bike lane – $2.7m
15th Ave Rehabilitation including road and storm rehabilitation, a joint project with DND – $2.2m
Construction of a BX Creek sediment control structure to mitigate the risk associated with seasonal flooding – $1.2m
The endorsed Financial Plan including budget is available on the City’s website: https://www.vernon.ca/sites/default/files/docs/financial/annual_reports/budget_package_final_draft.pdf
Vernon council has wrapped up two days of special meetings to discuss the 2019 budget.
Council has decided on a tax increase of 5.3 percent for next year, with more details to be released by the City Friday.
The biggest part of the budget was RCMP, which added up to 9.4 million dollars, while operations came in at 8.9 million.
The tax increase is slightly more than this year’s hike which was 5.05 percent.