We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts on tax increases to pay for major projects.
David Cubberley, mayoral candidate:
In Saanich the one-third local share of sewage treatment would likely be paid via utility billing, proportionate to sewer use. On rapid transit, we need to first tie down what senior governments are willing to pay to build a system that shapes growth patterns and reduces carbon emissions to meet binding targets – before we know what the local share would look like. I believe in repurposing existing revenue streams (fuel and carbon taxes) to cover the lion’s share of local costs. Property taxes can’t be relied on to fund rapid transit, if we were to proceed.
Frank Leonard, mayoral candidate:
We must respect that taxpayers’ ability to pay, regardless of the type of tax that is being proposed. When a project is optional, I have suggested taxpayer assent through a referendum; when a project is mandatory, I have suggested taxpayers be given an opportunity to indicate how the service should be paid for.
Susan Brice, council candidate:
Major projects such as road rebuilds, bridge replacements, hospitals, sewage treatment and light rail are all hugely expensive to undertake. Saanich has been very successful in getting grants from gas transfer tax funds to help pay for roads and bridges. Developers must continue to help pay for infrastructure improvements around their projects as a way to enhance the transportation and environmental impacts on the neighborhood. Very large projects such as sewage treatment and rapid transit can only proceed if there are major financial commitments from senior levels of government, generally in the one third/one third range. Despite these other sources of revenue there will need to be a strong focus on fiscal responsibility in all aspects of municipal budgeting to ensure that local tax payers are not unduly burdened.
Judy Brownoff, council candidate:
Saanich has a practice that our borrowing limit should be at or less than the average for BC Municipalities, which would put us at around a max of $53 million. Our current debt (approximately) is $20 million which equates to 7% of revenues generated. There is legislation that has a borrowing formula that could see a significant amount more that Saanich could borrow, in the neighborhood of $300 million, but in Saanich we have set a low threshold to manage debt in a fiscally responsible manner. We also have a long term debt management plan for our infrastructure.
Vic Derman, council candidate:
Taxpayers have limited ability to pay – plain and simple. We need to be sure that other levels of government contribute their fair share. After all, increasingly, their own revenues come from healthy cities. We also need to look at re-development as a source of revenue. LRT on the Douglas Corridor would dramatically increase property values some of this increase should be re-captured to pay for the project. Also, appropriate new development can reduce tax loads. In the end, we do need to make investments for our future but I’m surprised there’s not more concern about a sewage project that will provide little value for money.
Paul Gerrard, council candidate:
Under provincial legislation, municipalities cannot run a deficit, so major projects need to be funded in creative ways instead of just property tax increases. In a combined project, Saanich and View Royal received a $ 10 million Gas Tax Rebate Grant to replace the Craigflower Bridge over the Gorge waterway. Saanich has received major grants from provincial and federal governments to help fund the Saanich Centennial Library, the Rithet Reservoir, the Centennial Trails, renovations to Gordon Head Recreation Centre and Saanich Commonwealth Place, the RINC grants to upgrade 19 of our local parks, and the new Arts Centre at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.
Ingrid Ip, council candidate:
I do agree with short term tax increases to pay for major projects but I also believe that some projects should be user pay.
Dean Murdock, council candidate:
As our region grows, we will be confronted with challenges that will require investment (eg, infrastructure upgrades, transportation improvements, recreation and community centre expansion). Council has a responsibility to Saanich residents to respond to these challenges in a way that reduces the impact on the property tax payer. That means working with senior governments and regional partners to leverage existing funds to build important projects. It is crucial that all major project decisions are open and transparent. Council must engage the community to assess needs and evaluate potential costs and benefits before a shovel goes into the ground.
Vicki Sanders, council candidate:
Saanich is traditionally conservative; we have a strong contingency fund (provide for infrastructure planning) but we need to ensure that we do address major projects in a timely fashion. We cannot ignore aging infrastructure. I believe that partnerships are the best way to approach major projects, seeking provincial, federal and even consider corporate funds so that taxpayers do not have to bear the brunt of the costs.
Nichola Wade, council candidate:
It is often too easy for some politicians to commit to projects and forget the impact on the taxpayers. That is not my way – the incremental effect of tax increases cannot be ignored. Saanich has an excellent reputation for sound fiscal planning – which we must maintain. There will always be more demand on our capital budgets than there are funds available and it is up to me as your Councillor to prioritize.
Leif Wergeland, council candidate:
We cannot afford any more large capital expenditures that would increase our property taxes at this time. Any new capital projects must be planned ahead and well thought out. We cannot afford everything and so there must be a priority list. We must constantly look at partnering with other organizations and senior levels of government for cost sharing. We must constantly remind ourselves that there is a limit that you can put on our residence property tax. We must learn to live and budget within our needs not our wants.
Rob Wickson, council candidate:
The word “taxes” strikes fear in every tax payer. We will always be faced with choices that have to be carefully balanced against the community need and the ability to pay. One option would be to consider ideas around “tax shifting.”
Harald Wolf, council candidate:
Taxing the populous and business is probably the trickiest juggling task any politician is faced with. Somewhere between “user-pay” and “ability-to-pay”, and tax-shifting, lies and answer that is reasonably fair to everyone. We choose to live in pleasant, safe communities, with many (but never enough) amenities, such as Saanich, and must realize someone must pay to build and maintain that environment. It really is up to the citizens to engage each other and the politicians to establish priorities. We too often take for granted many of the services we use, and have become particularly accepting of all the funding resources devoured by the maintenance of the smooth roads everybody wants to drive on.