Residents of Sidney and North Saanich face higher taxes unless the provincial government delays plans to download 100 per cent of emergency dispatching costs.
The two are among eight south Island municipalities – Langford, Colwood, View Royal and Sooke are also affected – that are subject to an agreement in which senior levels of government share the cost of RCMP E-Comm 9-1-1 dispatch services. The province covers 70 per cent of costs, the federal government the rest.
While this arrangement remains in effect for many regions of B.C., it expires on April 1, 2022 for the South Vancouver Island dispatch region, which also includes Ladysmith and North Cowichan.
The municipalities’ mayors are calling on Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to delay the change to allow more time to absorb costs associated with the change, which they say was planned without consultations.
While the change will be phased in over three years, the mayors wrote Farnworth to say they are already struggling with pandemic-related costs, and warned of possibly having to forego additional policing resources in their communities.
The first of the three years will cost Sidney an extra $92,000 and North Saanich $67,000 in 2022, according to municipal estimates. Those costs would rise to $207,000 and $152,000, respectively, in 2023 and jump to $333,000 for Sidney and $244,000 for North Saanich in 2024.
As a factor of property taxes, Sidney would need to increase revenues by 2.58 per cent, North Saanich 2.24 per cent in 2024 to cover the increases.
To put these figures into context, Sidney increased revenue from property taxes by 2.7 per cent to cover all items in 2021, while North Saanich raised property tax revenues by 2.84 per cent.
If the province does not delay implementation in 2022, the added cost would require a 0.75 per cent increase in Sidney and 0.62 per cent in North Saanich.
North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr called the increases “significant” in an emailed statement, adding the municipality is hopeful the province will see fit to delay and/or reduce the change. He thanked North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring for bringing the matter to the attention of the eight affected municipalities and for his advocacy on their behalf.
Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said it is unfortunate the 9-1-1 dispatch service is subject to inconsistent funding.
“Hopefully, Minister Farnworth recognizes that this funding shift requires greater consultation and fairness for municipalities with RCMP policing in the region and the province,” McNeil-Smith said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.