Oak Bay’s ongoing infrastructure needs are the main reason council is facing an 8.05 per cent tax increase this year.
Budget talks are underway, with the latest meeting on Feb. 20, as mayor and council receive what Mayor Kevin Murdoch calls a very well laid out plan by the District’s new director of financial services Christopher Paine.
Regardless of the mayor’s praise for Paine and the detail of the draft financial plan, the reality is residents need to accept a second straight bump in the city’s tax rate.
“Council is committed to getting on top of the infrastructure costs,” Murdoch said. “We need pipes replaced, we need roads paved. This is where we earn our dollars as a council to prioritize what we need to do and try to find a balance with the things we’d like to do.
“We’re getting into a place of doing work that is not just repairing but replacing infrastructure.”
Sub-ground infrastructure remains a key area of focus in the 114-page draft of the 2020 financial plan.
“We’re seeing solid evidence that deferring of this is not just postponing the work, but it’s driving up costs,” Murdoch said. “We have to manage the [infrastructure replacement] in a way that gets us in front of the escalating costs.”
The draft lists the 2019 property tax revenue as $24.6 million, with a budget of $26.6 million in 2020 and total operating expenses for 2020 at $42.9 million.
Some good news is an early completion of the 10-year assessment of sanitary and storm sewers. Approved in 2015, the report suggests the camera assessments could be completed by spring of this year, due to an increased focus and emphasis on the project.
However, Murdoch conceded the next meetings are going to be difficult.
“We have to take some things off the table and decide what we can focus on,” Murdoch said. “I expect the eight per cent budget increase will be a bit lower than that.”