Colwood’s mayor is advocating for a zero per cent tax lift in the 2020 fiscal year in light of financial struggles residents may be facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Rob Martin said council’s budget was based on a strong regional and national economy. The City was looking at about a three per cent tax lift as it continues to grow.
“We expected Colwood to be in expansion mode for 2020/2021,” Martin said. “But now there’s contraction due to the COVID-19 economy.”
Many residents have been laid off for an indeterminate amount of time, Martin said, and while he acknowledged the supports being provided by the federal and provincial governments during this time, he doesn’t think they will meet everybody’s needs.
“We need to understand that local families are going to be struggling financially,” Martin said. “Normally I wouldn’t advocate for a zero per cent tax lift but this is to demonstrate we are here to support residents.”
City staff are to bring forward several options to council showing what each scenario looks like: what was forecasted before the pandemic, what reducing the tax lift would look like and what a zero per cent increase would look like. Martin said after speaking with senior staff, he believes the City can move some things forward without seeing a reduction in staffing or essential services and services residents expect.
Martin said it would mean some projects would be delayed but he expects to see a large influx of dollars coming in from the province and federal government once they are past “crisis mode” and try to “kick start the economy.”
As for City developments such as Royal Bay, Royal Beach, Colwood Corners and the Allandale lands, Martin said developers have “every intention of moving things forward.”
“We’re in a short term bump right now but from a long term standpoint we have put ourselves in a strong position,” Martin said.
The City has budget deliberations in two weeks with a deadline of May 15 to complete the budget. Residents must pay their taxes by July 1, as mandated by the province, but Martin said he is advocating for that deadline to be moved as well.
On a phone call with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, as well as other mayors from the South Island, Martin said the question of moving the deadline was raised. He said they were told the province is “seriously looking at changing the date” but no decisions have been made yet. Martin is advocating for the deadline to be moved to Sept. 30.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing was not able to provide comment by press time.