Saanich property taxes will go up by 3.07 per cent as council wrapped up budget deliberations this week.
“This is an honest budget,” said Coun. Susan Brice. “3.07 per cent is what it is going to take to run this municipality.”
She made these comments before councillors unanimously approved the figure. Initial budget discussions started with a 4.17 per increase in revenue from property taxes.
“We have done our best to get down to a number where we can go out to the public and justify it,” said Coun. Colin Plant. “While it is greater than the Consumer Price Index, this is what it takes to have our community.”
Plant used the occasion to repeat previous concerns about the ratio between the share of taxes from businesses and residential properties. Saanich, he said, will have to have a fundamental discussion about its long-term economic future.
“What is our fundamental business?” he asked.
Council approved the figure of 3.07 per cent after it had deliberated a number of issues, including the police budget.
The board overseeing local police had rejected a request from Saanich council to cut back the 2018 police budget. Saanich councillors last month asked the police board to revise its provisional budget, which had called for a tax hike of 4.63 per cent because of changing policing needs that require six additional staff.
Following some back-and-forth, the municipality approved what councillors had previously called a “status quo” budget with an increase of 3.81 per cent in the police budget. But that term is somewhat misleading, because it has led to the elimination of one civilian position.
Mayor Richard Atwell, who voted against the figure of 3.81 per cent, said the police board will now have to work with this figure.
Council approved the figure of 3.07 per cent after nearly two months of actual deliberations preceded by a longer period of preparation.
One of the questions heading into the final vote was whether support for the budget would be unanimous. That question resolved itself when Coun. Karen Harper said that she would not be voting against it.
While Saanich could have done more to ease the future tax burden, she said it had made “significant progress” in bringing down the proposed increase.
“On this basis, I won’t be voting against it, and hopefully the numbers are not going to change in the upward direction when we come to our next meeting,” she said, in alluding to comments from staff that budget figures could yet change between now and May 7, the scheduled date for final adoption of financial plan and tax rate bylaws.