North Saanich could freeze property tax rates


North Saanich is aiming for a zero tax rate increase for 2012.

"The people won't pay one cent more in taxes this year than they did last year," said Coun. Dunstan Browne. Browne first brought the 'tax cap' motion up in January, as part of the Team North Saanich promise of fiscal restraint. At that time it was referred to staff to consider along with budget discussion.

He asked that a cap be placed on municipal tax revenue for the 2012 fiscal year so that income from all property, and parcel taxes for sewer and water for the year do not exceed taxes imposed last year.

Mayor Alice Finall suggested the original motion be presented in two parts. The first motion: through the budget process staff provide options for council to achieve no increase in property tax for average residents beyond 2011 levels. The second: through the budget process staff provide options for council to achieve no increase in parcel taxes for water and sewer above 2011 levels.

"No matter what we approve in principle, for staff to try to project council decisions in advance of the budget process is almost impossible because they are trying to anticipate votes by council and decisions by council on future recommendations,” Finall said. “I think it isn't safe to do so and I don't know how helpful that is for either council or staff. While I appreciate the wish to have council endorse a certain principle, I think we can't do that until we hear what must be done to achieve that."

She noted that the budget process is expected to start soon and the motion as worded would keep staff from preparing recommendations to allow for informed decisions during budget discussions.

"Those will need full information and serious deliberation by council before they can make a decision. I just don't see how staff can anticipate the results of that deliberation," Finall said.

Browne readily agreed.

During the Feb. 27 committee meeting, council unanimously agreed to a zero increase on property taxes.

"If somebody increases a cost to us way beyond our control, we have to revisit that," said Browne. "Apart from circumstances beyond our control, there will be no tax increases this year."

The parcel tax freeze passed with Coun. Elsie McMurphy and Finall opposed. Coun. Ceilia Stock was not at the meeting.

"Council began last year, as an extremely positive incentive, to begin … a charge for reserves for infrastructure replacement for water and sewer supplied to various residents," Finall said. "I think it prudent and essential that council, if they are governing responsibly, make provision for infrastructure replacement."

"I agree with the mayor that we have to keep making provisions for it," said Coun. Craig Mearns. "I don't see why we have to make any provision this year any larger than we did last year."

The motions were made during committee as recommendations to council, and were up for discussion and ratification Monday night, after the News Review’s deadline.


Hiring freeze, too?

Coun. Dunstan Browne also put forward a motion to freeze municipal hiring, or filling of vacancies "without full motivation to and approval of council." That motion, as it was when presented to council in January, was forwarded to in camera discussion.

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