In Sidney, municipal services going up; taxes too

People will be paying more taxes for more services, but Sidney hopes savings in their 2015 budget will keep the burden reasonable.

Sidney residents will be paying more municipal taxes for more services this year, but the Town hopes other savings in their 2015 financial plan will keep the overall burden more reasonable.

Town council approved their annual budget on Feb. 24, with an overall tax increase of 2.52 per cent. That, says Director of Corporate Services Andrew Hicik, means average homeowners will pay around $12 a year in additional property taxes in 2015.

That jump, he continued, is offset by a drop in the sewer user rate. That savings on the annual utility bill should offset the tax increase, he said. The Town noted these are averages based on the assessed value of people’s homes. Hicik said the final tax rates for the municipality are set to be approved in April.

On Feb. 24, council refined their financial plan and set their spending priorities for 2015. Those include sidewalk and park improvements around the Anacortes Ferry terminal and along First Street into the downtown core. Hicik noted that the gas tax money earmarked for a proposed pedestrian overpass will pay for much of this project. The overpass was put off for at least a year, pending the financial involvement of the provincial and federal governments.

Council also voted to provide additional community support dollars to the Mary Winspear Centre ($255,000, up from $197,000 in 2014), Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre ($65,000) and Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce ($60,000).

In approving extra funds for the Mary Winspear Centre, Coun. Peter Wainwright asked the Centre’s Executive Director Brad Edgett to explain its value to the community. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre had a similar opportunity the week prior.

Edgett said the Mary Winspear Centre is only 27 per cent funded by the municipality and has not had an increase to its funding since 2001. He said this extra money will help the Centre plan for future upgrades, such as a roof replacement. That, and proposed increases of half-a-per cent from 2016 to ‘18 will also contribute to the Centre’s planning on how it can become more self-sufficient, Edgett said.

He added the District of North Saanich is also being asked to increase its contribution to the Centre. Sidney Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble noted the proposed incremental increases in funding to the Centre is better than having to pay for maintenance or emergencies up-front.

Coun. Tim Chad added the Centre opened in its current form in 2001 and now, 14 years later, they are coming to council for the first time for an increase. He urged council to approve the change.

Wainwright also noted the Town is contributing $40,000 to investigate contamination of sediment within Reay Creek Pond, as well as the possibility of fixing the dam and its impacts on the duck pond on Reay Creek. “It’s clear there are some environmental issues there,” he said.

The Town issued a notice on Feb. 27 that they will be organizing stakeholders to look into the clean-up options.

Mayor Steve Price praised municipal staff for their work preparing the annual budget.

“Our guys do an amazing job of looking after the people of Sidney,” he said.

Full details of the 2015 financial plan and the Town’s five-year plan are available at sidney.ca.