Council receives final budget report

Saanich presented with possible ways to cut costs in the municipal budget

A report on what, where and how Saanich can possibly cut costs in the municipal budget was presented to council on Monday.

It was the third in a series of three reports that also seek to bring better public input into the future of the budget process.

Coun. Vic Derman and Coun. Fred Haynes are among the key supporters of the reports. Derman had previously stated he is keen to have a greater say from Saanich taxpayers as to which services could be cut, perhaps by showing which services are optional, and which aren’t, such as mandatory wage increases.

Haynes complimented Derman for helping to “ignite” the initiative and said staff have been working hard on it for many months now.

People are not confident in Saanich staff but they are working flat out to bring things forward. It’s a complicated document, trying to bring the full [budget] process online so that people can be better informed, but it’s going to take a couple of years,” Haynes said.

“Perhaps by showing the set increases, we can then ask residents, where should we put sidewalks, what road work should be prioritized, etc. What if we could engage the residents and ask, how much [new] sidewalk do you want.”

The first report came to council in June, exploring why the municipality’s annual property tax increases are as much as four per cent beyond the consumer price index. The second report came out in July and looked at what Saanich can do to increase its revenue streams.

Among the key questions at hand is, what are the implications of cutting substantially at this point, Derman said.

In the past five years, Saanich has increased property taxes 5.72, 4.63, 4.45, 3.97 and 4.65 per cent (in 2015). Each of those raises are no less than 2.97 per cent above the CPI for Victoria, the cost of living model generally used to measure tax hikes.