Sidney’s 2022 budget is making history by including the first of what is expected be an annual contribution to combat climate change.
Staff said in a media release that dedicating $50,000 to the municipality’s newly created climate action reserve fund would help address priorities identified in Sidney’s climate action plan.
Overall, Sidney’s operating budget totals $25.5 million. Meanwhile, its capital budget totals $8.3 million, with most of its nearly 100 projects funded by reserves. The community will spend $2.5 million in infrastructure replacement projects, and $520,000 in active transportation investments through sidewalk and pathway improvements.
Sidney plans to increase revenue from property taxes by 3.76 per cent as part of a broader plan to raise revenue levels to pre-pandemic levels.
It is shifting toward 24/7 staffing of trained firefighters at a cost of $64,600 and adding another RCMP officer, which would still leave Sidney short of its full complement f 15.
Not in the 2022 budget, but looming in future budgets are dispatch costs downloaded as part of the municipality’s RCMP contract. These start at $92,000 and rise to $345,000 in 2026.
Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s chief financial officer, said Sidney’s RCMP contract leaves the municipality in a better financial position than it would by having its own police force.
Overall, police protection accounts for just under 18 per cent of tax-funded expenditures, while fire and emergency services account for just under 14 per cent.
Among the more controversial items discussed in the budget was the addition of a full-time human resources manager. A motion by Coun. Scott Garnett to remove the item from this year’s budget failed, drawing just the support of Coun. Barbara Fallot with the rest of council opposed. The annual cost of the position, using current rates, would be $125,000 to $140,000, according to a staff report.
Garnett said Sidney’s population growth does not justify the addition. Coun. Peter Wainwright said the current practice of letting senior staff deal with HR could be counter-productive and Coun. Chad Rintoul expressed surprise that the municipality does not already have such a position given its workforce of 75 unionized employees as well as auxiliary staff.
Staff said the budget will also continue to support community organizations, including the Mary Winspear Centre, Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, and the Sidney Museum and Archives.
“Total community support payments – an investment spread across 10 non-profit organizations – exceed $1 million annually, representing approximately (eight per cent) of the (municipality’s) operating budget,” it reads.
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