Homeowners in Saanich will see a 7.19 per cent increase in property taxes this year as the district tries to meet demand for programs and services, while remaining mindful of residents grappling with inflation.
Council unanimously approved its 2023 budget on Tuesday (April 18), although several councillors admitted that some residents could find it a bit hard to stomach.
“I will acknowledge that some people will find this budget challenging to be able support in the community, but I believe it is the budget that Saanich needs as we move from being purely an operational municipality to a municipality that is both operational and strategic and responsive to community concerns,” said Coun. Colin Plant.
Plant added that both current and previous councils have undertaken large projects – including the older adult and diversity, equity and inclusion strategies released last month – which can often require substantial funding to enact.
“If we’re going to have these wonderful endeavours and initiatives, we need to be able to fund them. And so sometimes that will be challenging for a council to do, but I believe it is the right budget to pursue,” he said.
The $170-million budget includes $10.78 million in added spending from last year, translating to a tax increase of $229.95 for the average Saanich homeowner. That includes a $1.8-million bump in the Saanich police budget – for a total of $40.6 million – as well as an additional $352,749 for the Greater Victoria Public Library and $2.6 million for the district’s capital budget, totalling $95 million for 2023.
Council also approved a $387,648 management fee to the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, a $690,417 contribution to the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications system and $1.7 million in additional resource requests for staff to pursue strategic objectives.
“When you consider all of the competing interests involved in forming a budget and you look at all of the demands for services and programs to be able to put this forward in a very challenging financial year in terms of what we’re facing in an inflationary environment – I think this is a very defensible budget and one that I think will put Saanich on really strong footing moving forward,” said Mayor Dean Murdock, adding that this year’s budget strikes a good balance against a backdrop of inflation.
Council also reduced the budget by about $1.2 million through various initiatives, including changing the way the district funds the active transportation plan and technology upgrade program, as well as utilizing money typically set aside for vacant positions on the municipal payroll.
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