|Coun. John Vassilaki|
Vassilaki said the city has $2.9 million remaining in surplus revenues available to avoid a tax increase to pay the bill for the upgrade.
City council is due to adopt the 2013 budget this evening after passing first three readings of the budget bylaw at a special meeting on Thursday.
Vassilaki said in an interview Sunday he'd like to see the budget revised to allow for further underground infrastructure improvements, much like the water and sewer upgrade completed this year on Ellis Street.
"I don't care where they put it Ð whether it's Winnipeg Street, Martin Street or some of the other streets," he said. "There should be one every year."
Vassilaki said many of the existing water lines near downtown are too small to provide enough water for adequate fire protection for any new higher density developments.
The 2013 budget includes $5.4 million in capital upgrades Ð much of it designated for downtown revitalization plans and upgrading the Okanagan Beach waterfront.
A total of $620,000 has been allocated for watermain upgrades on Woodruff Avenue and Moosejaw Street near King's Park. A further $471,000 is budgeted to replace failing pipes on three other side streets near Eckhardt Avenue and Railway Street.
Council voted for no tax increase after wrapping up its budget deliberations on Thursday.
Instead, the city will address a $1.26-million shortfall in revenue by taking $1 million from the $3.9-million surplus and about $250,000 from the interest stabilization reserve.
Mayor Dan Ashton said Sunday council fully realizes it can't continue taking money from surplus and reserve funds, but such a move is necessary during tough economic times.
"We have decreased it, but that's what savings accounts are for," he said. "Until that (economy) turns around, I think it's up to us Ð just like everyone else is facing Ð to hold the line on expenses."
The budget does include a five per cent increase in water rates for 2013 and the city is looking at a significant jump in electrical rates.
This evening's council meeting opens with a public input session into three electrical rate alternatives being considered by council.
Rates could rise anywhere from 6.18 to 7.87 per cent, based on increases in wholesale and retail prices from FortisBC which supplies power to the city's electrical utility.
Ashton predicts council will opt for the lower rate hike, again in a bid to keep costs to taxpayers as low as possible.
The council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall council chambers.