Sooke councillors are committed to whittling down a proposed tax hike by district staff, though averting those measures will require funding from the federal and provincial governments.
A draft budget projects a 6.67 per cent tax increase. The figure is mostly attributed to Sooke’s population growth and service demands.
If the budget is adopted unchanged, property owners would likely see a $97 increase on their annual tax bill.
The draft budget report highlights major expenditure streams, including:
• $2 million for Church Road widening design and construction
• $700,000 for Drennan and Charters Road intersection upgrade
• $300,000 for the annual road reconstruction program
• $250,000 for Municipal Hall upgrades
This year’s proposed revenue streams include:
• $9,481,477 from property taxes
• $2,327, 243 from parcel taxes
• $2,010,866 from fee charges
• $15,777,231 from other sources
The draft budget doesn’t include more than $2.9 million from the province and federal government’s Safe Restart Grant program at COVID-19 relief.
So far, the district hasn’t received word on how the grant money can be spent, but the new funds could offset the budget requirements by more than two per cent. The district is also expecting two other funding streams from the province later this year.
“I’m just mindful of the financial strain on residents right now,” said Mayor Maja Tait, pointing out both the Capital Regional District and Sooke School District are working on a zero per cent increase for 2021.
Between 2012 and 2020, Sooke’s average property tax increase was approximately two percent per year. Last year, Sooke council started with a 6.58 per cent tax increase, pared it down to 4.1 per cent and sliced it to zero per cent by the time the COVID pandemic hit.
Coun. Ebony Logins asked staff to present a budget based on “needs vs. wants” in an attempt to reduce the proposed 6.67 per cent tax hike.
“This is not a good starting point. We need to have a lower starting point than a seven per cent tax increase,” she said.
Coun. Tony St-Pierre said he would like to see a budget increase of about four per cent, or where the budget was before COVID-19 hit in March.
District staff expects to have new budget numbers for council later this month.
The budget, more formally called the five-year financial plan, must be approved by May 15.