Saanich taxpayers, businesses squeezed again
Proposed 3.25 per cent hike, double inflation –
Feb. 2016 – The District of Saanich has released its preliminary budget for 2016 and is seeking public comment on a 3.25 per cent property tax rate increase.
The $251-million budget for the district of 110,000 residents allocates $136-million for operating expenditures and another $59-million for capital projects.
Workers and seniors continue to fall behind and see increasingly more income devoted to municipal taxes and especially utility charges,” says Stan Bartlett, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria.
During the last 10 years Saanich taxes have increased almost five per cent annually, well ahead of inflation of about 15 per cent. Without a source of new revenue of $1.3-million – from new residential and commercial buildings – the proposed tax hike would have been even higher in 2016.
Last year a quarter of employees never received wage increases, according to the Conference Board of Canada. In a slow-growth economy, British Columbia’s non-unionized workers are expected to average 2.3 per cent in salary increases this year.
Seniors on pensions fortunate to be adjusted to current inflation of 1.9 per cent – Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, government employee pension plans, and private sector pension plans – continue to fall behind, says Bartlett.
Significant new capital projects in Saanich this year include $5.9-million for the Wilkinson Bridge (Colquitz Trail) Project, $3.6-million in wood stave replacement, $2.5-million in facility upgrades and $1.9-million in fleet replacement.
The plan isn’t final and could be changed any number of times before being approved by Saanich council in March. Both the CUPE municipal employees and Police Association contracts which expired in December have not been settled, although contingency estimates are included in the preliminary budget.
In December 2015 a 7.9% increase in sewer rates was approved to support CRD operating costs and higher Saanich infrastructure replacement spending. Annual cost to the average homeowner increased by $32 to $437 per year. CRD sewer charges had already increased by 30.87 per cent over last year due to operational cost increases and to fund the new liquid waste management plan mandated regional sewer treatment. Total, almost 40 per cent increase to sewer rates.
Note, while the tax rate increase includes library and police services, it does not include any Vancouver Island Health Authority, Capital Regional District, transit or education increases.
Additional financial plan meetings at Saanich are scheduled for Feb. 23, Mar. 1 and 15, and Apr. 19.
Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria urges Saanich to adopt a zero-based budgeting process where all expenses must be justified for each new year, starting from a ‘zero base’ and every function within its organization analyzed for needs and costs. Zero-based budgeting will help identify areas of wasteful expenditure and suggest alternate courses of action.
Media Coverage: On Feb. 2, no media were in attendance at the preliminary 2016 budget deliberations despite presentations by three community associations. A Google search of ‘Saanich 2016 budget and financial plan’ suggests there was also no print or broadcast media budget coverage. As of Feb. 8, Saanich had not sent out a press release on the preliminary 2016 budget.
Saanich Council Watch Dogs, taxpayers group – video coverage
District of Saanich, Budget 2016, http://www.saanich.ca/