North Saanich nulls tax rate

Zero tax rate hike this year won’t impact District priorities

North Saanich council this week brought in their second no-tax-rate-increase budget in three years.

By dropping or defering some budget items from their 2014 financial plan, council was able to take an initial porposed tax increase of around 1.2 per cent and cut it to nil.

Councillor Ted Daly, who chaired Tuesday morning’s budget session in the absence of Mayor Alice Finall, says by taking some of the options offered by municipal staff, they were able to get the number down to zero. While local taxpayers still pay a 1.71 base residential tax rate, he said there is no increase this year. It’s North Saanich’s second such budget in three years — there was no tax increase in 2012. In 2013, the rate hike was only 1.62 per cent.

Daly said this year’s proposed increase of 1.2 per cent represented approximately $100,000-plus. To reduce that, he said staff made a few recommendations.

Those included surplus moneys from 2013 and adding reserve funds of $14,000, a portion of which will be used to pay for this year’s municipal election costs.

Another $20,000 was chopped that would have paid for auxiliary items within the budgets of the finance and IT departments.

Council reduced its committees budget by $5,000 and another $38,000 was deferred over the next two years to cover fire hall debt financing.

Daly added the engineering department are also estimating to bring in an additional $20,000 in permit fees and other revenue in 2014.

Daly said while staff said there might be service level impacts within municipal hall as a result of the cuts, it is manageable and might not make much of an impact to residents at all.

“None of us felt that we were really sticking our necks out on this budget,” Daly said, responding to a question whether no tax rate increase might impact long-term planning or savings.

“Some councillors have said that’s a concern — end-loading everything. Staff didn’t seem to think it was a big concern.”

Finall, speaking from home, told the News Review she’s not completely pleased with no tax increase this year. She said she is concerned that the District’s bottom line is not sustainable and as a result some services to the residents will be affected.

“We are not really seeing an advantage or benefit to the community,” she said.

Daly noted that the District’s annual budget is heavily-dependant upon taxation from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal and the NAVCAN control tower at the Victoria International Airport. Both have been the subject of recent property assessment appeals, lowering their value and subsequent level of taxation. The assessment of the control tower, Daly said, is still under appeal by the municipality.

“Those and grants-in-lieu of taxes (generally from other levels of government) are the big three that bring in more than $1 million in tax dollars.”

Daly said while the target for a zero tax increase was met, North Saanich council will still be able to proceed with its priorities this year.