Victoria supported a number of actions that will further lower the city’s property tax increase before a final vote on the budgeting in early May.
The city is now looking at a six per cent tax increase after revenue-boosting parking measures and reducing the top-ups to reserve funds were approved by council on March 17.
The city is moving ahead with a proposal to extend paid parking hours to between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., both on-street and in parkades, with rates yet to be determined. The additional revenue – roughly estimated at $700,000 – would go to initiatives in the downtown around beautification, maintenance, cultural opportunities, new parks and amenities and investigating safety programs.
The parking changes are tentatively set to be effective May 1 should a needed bylaw tweak be approved.
Council also approved reducing $500,000 and $1 million from this year’s contributions to the parking reserve and debt reduction reserve funds, respectively, to reduce the tax increase. The parking fund upgrades the city’s parkades and all parking equipment. Its balance stood around $20 million at the end of 2022 and about $36 million in work will be needed over approximately the next five years.
While the 2023 contributions will still add to the reserve funds, some councillors said it’s not fiscally sound to reduce this year’s amounts and were concerned about the impact on city infrastructure and capital projects.
The debt reduction reserve gets an annual input of $3.1 million and is used to fund capital projects. A current use of the fund is going toward repaying loans for the new Yates Street fire station.
“The effect of this adjustment would be that we’re paying back that loan over a longer period of time,” said Susan Thompson, the city’s chief financial officer.
Mayor Marianne Alto said the two reserves, while critically important in the long term, do in her view have the capacity for a one-time reduction to the money being added. She said the special allocation this year is warranted given the cost-of-living challenges all Victoria’s residents are facing.
Council also went forward with initiatives that wouldn’t impact the property tax increase due to their funding sources.
One was approving $150,000 for activating the Victoria Music Strategy as councillors agreed the program will be key to attracting both people and performers to the city.
The city will also put $50,000 into a pilot project aimed at mitigating harm to “housed and unhoused people living, or operating businesses, in and around outdoor sheltering” and council supported allocating $100,000 for the city’s rent bank and a fund that provides grants for building affordable housing.
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