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Modest tax relief plan in West Kelowna does not include extra time to pay

Major hurdle cleared in the construction project of a new city hall in West Kelowna
It is a multi-million dollar project--one that was rejected by West Kelowna residents a few years back. But now city council has taken a major step forward in its plans to build a new city hall. This time, without public consent. As Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, council utilizing a short window of opportunity to push the project ahead, when public approval is not required.

Compared to other cities, West Kelowna isn’t financially prepared to offer its property owners, who may be impacted by the pandemic economic downturn, much relief when it comes to the tax deadline or penalties in 2020.

“West Kelowna is a very young municipality and, unlike many other B.C. local governments, does not have the depth of reserves needed to front financial hardship measures during such unprecedented times such as a global pandemic,” according to a press release issued Tuesday evening.

While the City of Kelowna has extended its deadline and interest charges on late property taxes until Sept. 1, West Kelowna has only reduced its tax rate from 4.8 per cent to 2.8 per cent.

READ MORE: Kelowna provides financial relief to residents during pandemic, other cities consider options

West Kelowna property taxes are, for now, due July 2. Late payments are subject to a 10 per cent penalty.

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“Cutting the tax increase is the right thing to do and we must continue to look for ways to support our residents and businesses who need the help during this difficult time,” West Kelowna mayor Gord Milsom said. “This is not an easy decision as it may impact some of the services we provide or lead to setbacks on some of our projects.”

Staff have yet to determine which projects, staff reductions and service-level cuts need to take place in order to account for two per cent less revenue in 2020.

Water infrastructure projects in the city, including the future Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant, remain a priority, the city’s release said.

There was no mention of altering plans to build a new city hall which council unanimously approved along with borrowing $11 million for the project in February.

WATCH BELOW: West Kelowna uses window of opportunity to move city hall project forward

Major hurdle cleared in the construction project of a new city hall in West Kelowna
Major hurdle cleared in the construction project of a new city hall in West Kelowna

“We need to help our community where we can during COVID-19,” Milsom said. “We are also requesting that the province of B.C. expand their property tax deferment program and extend the tax penalty due date.”

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Council has also approved dropping the one per cent interest charge on outstanding West Kelowna utility bills to the end of 2020.

To ensure the city has access to cash to cover capital and operating costs through the year ahead, council has voted to allow the city to extend its credit line from $2 million to $6 million.

West Kelowna is home to about 35,000 people, according to the 2018 census, but offers services to a greater population of 52,000, including those who live in Peachland and more than 10,000 people who live on Westbank First Nation lands within West Kelowna’s boundaries.

West Kelowna residents voted to incorporate in Dec. 2007.