Council reconvened Tuesday (March 22) for financial plan discussions to hear about options for reducing the property tax increase anticipated in Saanich this year.
On March 10 staff presented a draft budget that called for a 6.69-per-cent increase before adding in $3.3 million for projects recommended by the district’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee – the resulting 9.05 per cent tax hike was a figure Mayor Fred Haynes said he could not support.
On Tuesday (March 22) staff presented four options that would bring taxes down to between 5.68 and 5.97 per cent.
After additional items were added in by Coun. Zac de Vries however, the projected increase rose back up to 6.39 per cent. He proposed increasing staffing with positions that would accelerate climate action, increase diversity and equity in the district, and increase capacity for volunteer services, since much work has gone into the removal of invasive species.
The first of the four tax increase reduction options would be to utilize a vacancy contingency – in essence, money would not be put on standby while Saanich staff wait to fill certain positions.
The second option would be to reduce the information technology funding transition by $250,000 in 2022. The strategy, approved in 2021, requires a $750,000 sum per year for five years and this goal can be stretched out over a longer period of time.
Option three was to defer funding for park acquisition until council has the opportunity to receive a staff report on long-term funding in 2023. Staff are also considering alternate revenue options, such as implementing a parcel tax, to fund this budget item.
The fourth option suggested the deferral of the annual funding strategy for the upcoming election.
The strategy would see a shift in funding from one-time funding to surplus and annual sustaining funding. The impact is that more one-time funds will be needed in 2022 in a year where the annual surplus will be lower than has been experienced over the past couple of years, a report said.
Final budget approvals are set to come in May.
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