North Saanich proposes tax increase this year

District looking at a 2.9 per cent property tax hike after two years of zero increases.

There have been no tax increases in the District of North Saanich for the last two years and now the municipality is considering playing a little catch-up.

At the District’s March 5 budget committee meeting, staff are proposing a 2.9 per cent across the board property tax hike.

In addition, both the water and sewer user rates are set to climb — water by 2.2 per cent, sewer by only 0.8 per cent. Parcel taxes in both areas would remain the same.

In a presentation on this year’s proposed budget by Director of Finance Theresa Flynn, there are approximately $373,200 cost drivers in the financial plan for 2015. Those include a 2.2 per cent jump in labour costs, an estimated reduction of $73,000 in building permits and $68,000 in inflationary costs.

That would mean a 4.3 per cent tax hike to cover them.

However, she noted that amount is being offset by $77,000 in grants-in-lieu of taxes from the federal government’s new home for the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron. Another $130,900 could come in from grants (such as traffic fine revenue). Total offsets, Flynn explained, keep the early tax rate increase at only 2.9 per cent.

From this base rate, councillors debated portions of the budget in a five-plus hour session.

North Saanich is facing some increased costs this year, notably the contract for the RCMP. Even shared with the Town of Sidney, North Saanich’s share is going up $34,200. Flynn said that’s offset by a decrease in the administration costs shared with Sidney — leaving an overall increase of $7,900.

Overall, it will cost North Saanich $1.38 million in direct police costs (officers) for 2015.

This year appears to be one of renewal throughout the District’s departments. While still finding cost savings, various departments are still estimating they will need more money in 2015.

Within finance and IT, the largest impact — $18,100 — comes in salary and benefit step increases.

In general government, it goes up $33,500 for office supplies, the District newsletter, legal services and municipal hall costs.

The newsletter budget has been pegged to jump to $15,500 — compared with 2014 when only $683 was spent.

In planning and community services, the District is estimating a 10.5 per cent increase (or $55,000) in the department. The biggest impact is the estimated loss in building permits.

“How can you predict that?” asked Coun. Heather Gartshore.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan said it’s a rough estimate, based on “a need to be cautious.”

“There’s a reasonable possibility of the Canora-Rideau development going ahead this year, but we don’t know this,” he said.

The District is currently reviewing Bylaw 1352, which allows for more housing development in specific sectors of the community.

These budget figures are estimates — a starting point from which council will decide the eventual tax rates.

Council will discuss and vote on their five-year financial plan and  tax rate bylaws later in March or early April.