Central Saanich policing costs hit budget hard

Policing costs up 6.3 per cent; overall tax hike still low so far, at 1.39 per cent.

Costs for police and fire services in Central Saanich are increasing — mostly due to wages and benefits.

The two departments were discussed during the District’s recent budget deliberations.

The Central Saanich Police Board, which has been working on the budget since October 2016, is looking at a total overall increase of 6.3 per cent to their part of the municipality’s annual budget. That translates to an extra $26 a year for the average home owner.

The net property taxes required for 2017 — and under consideration by the District — is an increase of 1.39 per cent.

This is due primarily to a 4.5 per cent increase to wages and benefits in Central Saanich’s collective agreement with municipal employees and police costs.

Policing costs are also increasing as the department is reporting that they are at full staff — compared with past years when they did not have a full compliment of officers and other staff.

Police services also saw a decrease in revenue of 8.5 per cent, which includes a drop in the Small Community Protection Grant and Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing Grant.

In looking ahead to 2018 to 2021, there’s more integration of units, which often involves additional expenses like the Real Time Intelligence Centre, which has been going in the Lower Mainland for years and is heading to the Island for police to be involved in. This would also include an additional cost.

The Central Saanich Police are also looking towards the Vancouver Island Integrated Dispatch Centre, which would result in a cost increase of around $200,000 in 2018/2019.

For fire services, the net property tax required for 2017 is $1,456,900 or a 2.8 per cent increase — $41,700 more than 2016.

This, according to District staff, is due to wage and benefit changes, an increase in duty callout and volunteer mileage costs related to implementation of the British Columbia Structure Firefighter Competency and Training Playbook, replacement of CREST pagers and an increase in utility charges.

Last week, the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) presented to the District of Central Saanich. Library Board member Rob Martin and CEO Maureen Sawa spoke with council.

In an email to the PNR, Paul Murray, director of financial services for the District said the GVPL’s budget request is $859,172, which is up 1.94 per cent from 2016.

There was no mention of any specific drivers for the budget, except wages and benefits, the inflationary cost of purchasing books and materials and flat revenues from fines. Murray said that cost to the average Central Saanich resident is about a $1 property tax increase per year.

Central Saanich is slated to hold a special meeting on its budget process on March 14. The final budget has not yet been approved.