Tuesday, June 14, 2016

End run around referendum

By Wayne Moore -CASTANET Jun 14, 2016 / 5:00 am
The City of West Kelowna may not have to go to referendum to get the funds needed to construct a new city hall after all. They may be able to use direct taxation to accomplish the task. The city used the provincially mandated Alternative Approval Process to obtain voter assent to borrow up to $10.5 million to construct a new city hall, part of a larger $30-million complex on Elliott Road. The bylaw was defeated when nearly 4,000 eligible voters said no to the proposal. After the province refused to give the city an extension to hold a fall referendum, council decided to scrap the borrowing bylaw altogether and wait for further information from staff, rather than attempt a city-wide referendum in the summer. A staff report with five options will be debated by council today. Two of those options would allow the city to use accumulated reserves to pay for the project and repay itself through a special parcel tax and other taxation. Council could approve the expenditure without voter assent – an end run around the referendum. A parcel is any designated area of land that does not include a highway; for example, a house and yard represent one parcel. Local governments can charge taxes against each parcel as one method of recovering its costs. A parcel tax can be imposed for a specific service for a property that may utilize that service. It must also specify the number of years the tax will be imposed. Should council approve the measure, between $7.2 and $8.2 million would be transferred from reserves. Those funds would need to be repaid within five years using a parcel tax and general taxation. It is being recommended between $57 and $72 be charged per parcel, per year. Interest of 1.7 per cent would be included in the repayment. A similar alternate recommendation would allow the city to transfer between $5.7 and $6.7 million from reserves, plus borrow $1.5 million which, again, would not require a referendum. Other recommendations to be considered by council would require a referendum, including development of a new borrowing bylaw. Council could also scrap the city hall project altogether.
Report on options at http://www.districtofwestkelowna.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/2770?fileID=10405

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