A revenue increase has lowered the municipal tax increase that Saanich council prepares to adopt Monday.
Higher recreation rates and additional revenues thanks to a grant-in-lieu from BC Hydro has allowed Saanich to lower the requisition of additional revenue from property tax.
While Saanich council had initially agreed to raise revenues from property taxes by 5.37 per cent, the new funding totalling $216,062 lowers the increase to 5.2 per cent. Saanich started budget discussions with a proposed increase of 5.93 per cent.
Valla Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance, said average homeowners in Saanich will see the municipal portion of their tax bills rise by $134.51 — down from $139 under the old figure.
A break-down of this increase shows 26.1 per cent of the revenue increase goes towards operations, resource requests and non-discretionary cost; 23.2 per cent will go towards increase spending on capital infrastructure; 19 per cent towards additional policing; and 2.6 per cent toward the Greater Victoria Public Library. Almost 30 per cent of the increase — 28.8 — per cent goes towards covering the Employers’ Health Tax.
Several councillors have denounced the EHT as a provincial imposition, noting that the actual increase would be below four per cent, in this case 3.7 per cent.
“I’m quite fine going out [to the public] with this budget,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff in late March, a point echoed by Coun. Colin Plant. Like everybody else, he said at the time that he favours lower taxes, but results from Saanich’s citizens survey leave him with the conclusion that council is getting things right.
The 2019 budget includes additional funding for staff that promise to improve bylaw enforcement and the efficiency of Saanich’s development permit application.
Mayor Fred Haynes said in late March that the additional staff will help the municipality grow its commercial base, something that would ultimately help Saanich reduce the tax burden on residents.
When council settled on the initial increase of 5.37 per cent, support was unanimous, but several councillors had expressed reservations about the long-term effects of the increase.
Coun. Ned Taylor expressed the fear that the budget would have a negative impact on affordability for not only homeowners, but also renters.
Coun. Karen Harpercalled on Saanich to continue to look for savings.
Coun. Nathalie Chambers meanwhile had expressed support for additional spending on police.