Saanich property taxes going up, police budget jumps 6 per cent

Average homeowner will see $94 hike in 4.23 per cent property tax increase

Saanich homeowners with an assessment around $600,000 will see a $94 hike in property taxes after council approved the 2015 budget last week.

The $244-million budget includes $136 million for operating expenses, $54 million for capital spending and $54 million for sewer and water services

A hotly debated decision of the April 21 vote centred around a $200,000 surplus from 2014. Council voted 5-4 to add the cash to its $5.6-million “accumulated surplus” fund  – used for emergencies such as natural disaster response – rather than offset the residential property tax increase.

“It would have lowered the rate increase from 4.23 per cent to 3.99 per cent,” said Mayor Richard Atwell. “I would have liked to have seen it used to reduce taxes.”

Saanich’s residential tax increase is nearly double that of the City of Victoria’s proposed 2.2-per-cent increase. Victoria, however, benefitted from a boom in construction in 2014, which led in part to its $4.7-million surplus. Saanich Director of Finance Valla Tinney stressed early in the budgeting process that sluggish new development in 2014 would lead to more reliance on existing taxpayers this year.

Coun. Dean Murdock, who voted with the minority to use the surplus for tax relief, said while there’s wisdom in saving for emergency expenses, he was disappointed with council’s decision.

“Putting the money into a savings account when it could have been used to lighten the load on homeowners and lower the percentage increase in what’s already acknowledged as a slow growth year just didn’t add up,” Murdock said.

Coun. Vic Derman said he voted with the majority of council to bank the small surplus on the advice of Saanich’s director of finance.

Derman said the $200,000 surplus would have reduced property taxes by just a few dollars per average household.

“Of course I would like to get the taxes as low as possible – everybody would. But I don’t want to do it in a manner that my finance director tells me isn’t prudent,” he said.

Derman added that a recent resident survey noted Saanichites are happy with their level of municipal service and don’t wish to see those services reduced.

“So if we’re going to change anything, we can’t do it spur of the moment. We need to have a long-term process where we get the public feeling on what we can reduce and get them involved early on in the budgeting process.”

The single largest departmental increase in the 2015 budget came from the Saanich Police Department, whose budget will jump from $28.5 million to $30 million this year to cover new technology, fleet replacement and salaries. A request from Saanich PD to upgrade its front desk area was deferred to reduce this year’s budget request by about $83,000.

“We’ve got some complicated issues with our police department,” Atwell said. “They’ve essentially outgrown their current building. We have a decreasing crime rate and an increasing workforce, but police are doing more and more social work on a regular basis, and they’re doing it in the absence of services that could off-load some of that burden.”

Atwell hopes to look more closely at outside agency partnerships that could help lessen the onus on police to deal with mental health calls.

“That’s a big issue. We have police dealing with the same individuals over and over,” he said.

Coun. Fred Haynes said the District needs to find better ways to diversify its revenue base, something council has already identified as a priority.

“The other alternative is to concentrate on residential taxes or additional user fees on programs like our garden and kitchen scraps,” Haynes said. “I’d like to see us move away from that reliance.”

Haynes had hoped to convince a majority of councillors to increase grant amounts in the tight budget for the Greater Victoria Development Agency, Tourism Victoria and the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission, which Haynes said would pay dividends by getting more agencies to focus on attracting business to Saanich.

“I did get council to agree to invite the GVDA to come and present to council and identify how improving our support for that agency can improve Saanich’s economy,” Haynes said.

“There seems to be some feeling that support given to a regional agency needs to have a clearer statement of benefit to Saanich. But we did maintain our funding for these agencies.”

Council also approved up to $150,000 to be used to implement webcasting of council meetings. Atwell said the full amount may not be required, but council didn’t want to leave staff financially restricted so early on in the process.

“We’ll still receive a report back from staff on options available for webcasting,” Atwell said. “We want a service equal to the City of Victoria at least.”

Employee salaries account for about 60 per cent of the operating budget.

See the complete 2015 budget – including budget fact sheets from each department – online at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New programs and services aimed at helping the unhoused find shelter or housing in Victoria, and to take advantage of support services of various kinds, could be funded if a City of Victoria grant application is successful. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria seeks $3M to $4M in grant funds to enhance community services for unhoused population

Various supports, services for unhoused population part of broad-based funding application

A Victoria parks staffer turns compost made from organics collected in the parks. Piles of this steaming, nutrient-rich stuff will be handed out between April 12-18. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Victoria shovels free home-made compost out to gardeners

Ideal for prepping food gardens, the compost, mulch and wood chips will be at city parks for pick up

Victoria Police Department seized a replica firearm during an early morning call to the 100-block of Gorge Road East on April 11. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police seize replica firearm in early Sunday morning call

Officers called to temporary housing facility in 100-block of Gorge Road East

Road improvements in Sooke are nearing completion . (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
Sooke road work nears completion

Projects part of $5.7 million in improvements

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School South Campus Monday morning to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Proposed $1.5-million cut would hit elementary and middle school programs

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Most Read