After having “conversations with both staff and members of the community,” Central Saanich councillor Niall Paltiel asked his colleagues at Monday’s meeting to reconsider and rescind his motion of April 7 to ask staff to examine a five-per-cent reduction to core services.
“Holistically, it doesn’t make sense to look at core services without looking at special projects at the same time, and the motion that was created did not address that,” he said. “I would rather vote it down, and then make a more informed motion going forward.”
Paltiel also noted that “we want to make sure we make informed decisions, based on the best information possible, and I don’t know that this tall order to staff is going to provide that information.”
Coun. Carl Jensen supported Paltiel, while still stressing that a core services review would be beneficial for the District.
“In order to do this properly, I’m willing to take a step back and take another look at this,” said Jensen. “I think in order to do it effectively, it needs to take more time. I just don’t want us to do it haphazardly in the effort of trying to make a legislative time.”
Paltiel’s initial request was introduced at a committee meeting and had not yet been ratified by council. The motion — to ask staff to prepare reports examining a one-, two- and five-per-cent reduction of core services — was rescinded April 13 with Coun. Alicia Cormier and Coun. Zeb King in opposition.
Paltiel then introduced a motion to ask staff to prepare a report to reduce the overall property tax rate from six to approximately four per cent, looking at both core services and special projects for potential reductions.
The difference between the two motions is approximately $1.3 million: a five-per-cent reduction of core services across each department would amount to about $1.6 million; a two-per-cent reduction in the property tax rate being proposed for 2015 would be roughly $268,000 in savings.
The District currently spends about $18 million per year in core services.
Council approved Paltiel’s new motion, with Mayor Ryan Windsor’s amendment that reserve contributions be exempt from any cuts.
Cormier and King again opposed the decision.
“I think we’re overlooking an opportunity to look more closely at core services,” said Cormier.
“It’s a poor way to go about it, but given the shortage of time, I think this is probably the most likely approach to be successful,” countered Coun. Chris Graham.
Central Saanich has been significantly challenged in their budget process due to financial staff being on leave and a delayed start.
Council is expected to return to the table for a regular council meeting April 20. For more information, visit centralsaanich.ca or call 250-652-4444.