Many city councils have been crunching the numbers for their 2020 budgets, and in Vernon, the result is a significant tax increase.
Vernon rate payers will be levied almost 4.9 per cent more next year.
However, the city’s mayor is defending the tax hike, saying the money will translate into extra services.
“It is really quite a level budget matching inflation,” Mayor Victor Cumming said.
“The only difference we’ve really done is added these extra services in fire, in safety and in recreation.”
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Along with extra funding for bylaw and recreation staffing, the 2020 budget will see the city continuing with an infrastructure catch-up program to make up for Vernon’s lack of investment in replacing aging equipment in the past.
Vernon is currently eight years into what is expected to be a 10-year catch-up program, which the mayor said is already paying off.
“We are spending less on emergency maintenance every year because we are catching up to basic maintenance and basic replacement,” Cumming said.
The budget also includes money to staff Vernon’s second fire hall in the landing area nearly 24/7 for faster response times.
During a pilot project for staffing that fire hall, Cumming said, crews had quicker response times in the western part of the city and faster response times for backup crews.
“We ran a pilot last year,” the mayor explained. “We discovered that we got quicker access to any kind of issue on the west part of the city.
“We also got a really much better backup when we send firemen to a situation — we had much faster backup.”
After Vernon was plagued by dust advisories when the snow melted last year, the city is also planning to spend roughly $350,000 on a vacuum street sweeper in an effort to improve air quality.
“If anybody’s seen our street cleaners, there is a bit of a cloud of dust around them,” Cumming said.
“We are hoping to eliminate that and clean the streets faster and clean them more thoroughly.”
Exactly how the tax increase will be divided up among residential, commercial and industrial rate players won’t be decided till the new year.
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