Holding the tax line presents budget challenges

A proposed tax increase in Sidney this year only scratches the surface, says staff

A proposed 3.19 per cent general tax increase for the Town of Sidney this year is only the starting point in an update of the municipality’s five-year financial plan — more money might be needed to shore up the town’s utility reserve funds.

That tax hike would bring in an additional $304,550 to the town’s bottom line, according to director of corporate services, Andrew Hicik. He said more than half of that new money — more than $178,000 — is earmarked for increases in services provided by the town, higher costs of services provided to the town, as well as a few new local initiatives.

Hicik introduced the draft financial plan to council on Jan. 21, providing a look at the challenges ahead to balance the budget and keep service levels steady. More meetings are ahead in which council will lay out their priorities for the next five years — and their financial impact.

No changes are proposed for the town’s water and sewer operating funds — meaning no user fee increases over 2012. However, Hicik pointed out that a drop in water consumption last year saw $100,000 vanish from the budget.

That shortfall was covered by reserve funds and for 2013, revenue expectations have been adjusted accordingly.

Another loss was recorded in the sewer utility — again, around $100,000 — in 2012. That was offset, reported Hicik, by a reduction in debt payments to the capital Regional District in the neighbourhood of $280,000.

Hicik noted, however, that an ongoing policy of not increasing user fees has seen an inadequate funding of the utility reserve funds. That, he said, is against the town’s own policies to do so and must be discussed by council during the financial plan review. The reserve funds help offset financial losses throughout the year, as well as provide a buffer in case of a problem, like a broken water main.

Hicik reassured council the funds should be OK for the next year or two but a review should be done. That would include a look at the rate structure and tools available to better address the issue.

In a nutshell, Hicik said the town didn’t make as much money in 2012 as they had hoped. Surplus funds — some $200,000 this year — will help balance the books and keep the proposed tax rate increase at a reasonable level. With the change back to the provincial sales tax this year, he said the town will be paying an extra seven per cent for some materials.

‘It’s going to hit us, but we’re not sure how much,” he said.

He assured council there is enough money in the previous years’ surplus fund — as long as the town sticks with its policy to ensure they top it up.

Since 2009, Hicik said the town has not had an inflationary increase to its overall budget.

“Eventually, it does catch up to you,” he said. “It limits the amount of money available to the town, as the costs to the town continue to change.”

For example, the town’s contract with the RCMP is set to jump $60,000 this year, and by $117,000 overall come 2015. Within that budget item, there is a savings of $89,000 with a reduction in the ongoing RCMP detachment debt, as well as the savings from withdrawing from the regional crime unit. As well, the elimination of two RCMP positions at the airport means the District of North Saanich’s share in the policing costs drops to 44 per cent from 48. Plans for a 15th police officer on the rolls in 2014 will only add to the overall cost.

Town council will now take the draft financial plan and meet specifically to discuss the budget on Feb. 4 at a committee of the whole meeting and again on Feb. 19 and 20 (the latter date if required).

Highlights of the costs of Sidney service changes and additions being planned for 2013:

• Firefighter hiring plan — $39,000

• Fire department training — $20,000

• Fire department wage reimbursement  — $4,000

• GIS budget increase — $15,000

• RCMP CrimeStoppers program — $4,500

• RCMP contract — $60,000

• Beacon Wharf study — $30,000



Just Posted

READERS’ CHOICE: Saluting the stars of the Saanich Peninsula

Welcome to the Peninsula News Review’s 13th annual Readers’ Choice Awards, our… Continue reading

Saanich Peninsula athletes earn their place at B.C. Games

The Saanich Peninsula will be well-represented next week as the 40th annual… Continue reading

A sled dog with an amazing past shows a young pug the ropes

A local school bus driver and passionate dog lover has written his… Continue reading

Victoria airport workers rally on Tuesday

Food service workers call for improved working conditions

Death-penalty decision delayed for alleged cold-case killer

William Talbott is charged here in the 1987 slaying of a young Victoria-area couple

Through your lens: Okanagan wildfires

Check out some of the captivating images and video from social media of the wildfires

BC Games: Opening Ceremony from Laketown Ranch

Hundreds of athletes and thousands of volunteers, coaches, parents and officials

World’s translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

Democrats had asked translator to testify about Trump’s lengthy conversation with Putin in Helsinki

No decision on B.C. school stabbing suspect’s mental fitness for trial

The BC Review Board could not determine whether Gabriel Klein, 21, is fit to stand trial

FRESH IDEA: Victoria tech firm beneficiary of streamlined government system

Software developer FreshWorks awarded $1.5-million contract using new bid program

Canadian government threatens to retaliate if Trump imposes auto tariffs

U.S president had suggested that auto imports pose a national security risk to the U.S.

Wildfire evacuation order forces bride to search for new wedding venue

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards is under an order due to the Mount Eneas wildfire south of Peachland

Recent online kitten abuse video raises serious social media questions

UBC and UFV profs weigh in on the subject of online sharing, shaming, and our digital landscape

UPDATED: ICBC fights back against claims that it’s ‘ripping off’ B.C. RV drivers

Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the provincial government to open up ICBC to competition

Most Read