Seniors in Saanich could lose their recreation discount, while some recreation facilities might close for parts of the day among other possible outcomes, as council considers ways to limit the tax impact of the 2018 municipal budget.
Saanich’s 2018 draft budget balances $288.3 million in revenues and transfers against $288.3 in expenditures, up almost $20 million from the previous year, and includes a 4.17 per increase in revenue from property taxes.
Council last year asked staff to present options for reducing the tax impact by between 1 and 1.5 per cent. Under the first option, council must find cuts or additional revenues worth about $1.15 million. The second scenario would require about 1.73 million in cuts or additional revenues.
These findings emerge from a report that councillors will consider Tuesday, as budget discussions continue. The report from chief administrative officer (CAO) Paul Thorkelsson includes a long list of items, which would cut the tax increase by 1.96 per cent, if Saanich were to implement every single one.
More substantial items identified for possible reductions include community grants ($50,000 assuming a 10 per cent reduction), core capital funding ($287,360), job evaluation programming ($300,000), fiscal services ($614,436) and capital sustainability funding ($711,594).
These changes, if approved in their totality, would impact maintenance of critical IT infrastructure, physical infrastructure, and contingency funding for emergency situations among other things, the report notes.
Some of the items in the list address the revenue side of the equation. For example, Saanich stands to again $87,180 in additional revenue, if it were to eliminate the senior discount for its recreational services in moving towards a needs-based model.
Such a move promises both advantages and disadvantages. “With this cohort being the largest and fastest growing demographic, the move from adult (no subsidy) to senior (25 per cent subsidy) will result in a 25 per cent decrease in revenue received for every person, who turns 60 years and purchases a pass,” the report reads in part.
However, the report also identifies affordability as one of the barriers to recreation. “Some seniors cannot afford recreation now so decreasing the subsidy will make recreation even less affordable to many.”
Still on the subject of recreation, the list also includes an entry that calls for the mid-day closure of the main pool at the Gordon Head Recreation Centre. The closure, if approved, would take place between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, running from September to June. This closure would allow Saanich to rent the pool to other users. The identified budget reduction would be $8,000.
Saanich could also save $17,500 by stopping to issue notices of upcoming meetings, $25,000 by eliminating paper-based agenda packages for mayor, council and staff, and $23,350 by eliminating its annual recognition dinner among other measures.
Municipal Hall could also look less festive in the future. The report identifies $4,000 in additional savings by stopping to purchase new decorations or lights.
“The existing lights will continue to be used and over time the display will be reduced as lights and decorations reach end of life,” it reads.
Council will consider these various items Tuesday.