ELECTION 2018: Big budget crunch looming in Oak Bay
Critics charge that mayor and council has known about the sorry state of the aging infrastructure in Oak Bay for years and are slow to do anything concrete about a huge bill estimated at $300 million.
But this spring – in time for an election year budget – council may finally be forced to address the issue and establish an annual funding program for infrastructure renewal in the 2018 budget. The majority of the District’s infrastructure is rated poor or very poor.
The most recent warning about the grim state of the District’s assets – including sewer infrastructure, water infrastructure, storm utility, roads, buildings, bridges and recreational facilities – comes from the director of engineering on Nov. 20 at a committee of the whole meeting.
“The need to allocate funding for long term capital projects had been flagged in every annual report going back to 2008. The sense of urgency outlined in this latest update is therefore not surprising,” Oak Bay resident Esther Paterson told council and staff. “Staff can only advise, policy is the responsibility and obligation of council.”
Based on reports estimating the infrastructure deficit at $280 million in January 2016, that the Class D estimates have a variance of 20 to 30 per cent, and interest payments will need to be made, infrastructure costs are more than $300 million, says Paterson.
There have been several reports flagging the infrastructure issue: an Asset Management Report (2015), a Pavement Management Study (2012/2013), and a Building Asset Management Plan (July 2016). In spring 2017 staff recommended council set aside one per cent of tax revenue for asset renewal. This was not supported by council.
Mayor Nils Jensen said Oak Bay needs to look at all options by saving, borrowing or using grants to cover the needs and that 1.5 per cent or higher of taxes might need to be set aside. The issue of establishing an immediate annual funding program for building renewal has gone to the estimates committee.
Paterson says that setting aside only 1 per cent of tax revenue of $23 million or $230,000 annually won’t come close to dealing with the infrastructure deficit. Oak Bay has an accumulated surplus of about $27 million, but that still leaves a substantial infrastructure deficit of $253 million.
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