Several members of council have acknowledged challenges lie ahead as 2019 budget deliberations start next week

Saanich council members slam new health tax following release of draft budget

Draft budget calls for 5.93 per cent hike in property tax revenues

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes acknowledges that the 2019 draft budget includes a “big lift” in terms of property taxes, but adds that the draft budget is just that — a draft that council has yet to work through. He also says the provincial government ties the hands of Saanich by downloading costs, specifically, the Employers Health Tax (EHT).

RELATED: Saanich police budget threatens to break the bank, says advocacy group

RELATED: New Saanich council faces long list of financial issues

Budget deliberations are scheduled to start this week following the release of the draft budget.

It proposes to raise revenue from property taxes by 5.93 per cent. More than a quarter of this proposed increase goes towards covering the EHT that Saanich has to absorb following the introduction of the EHT. According to the draft budget, the tax applies to all employee groups working for the municipality, and replaces Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums, which employees either fully paid or cost-shared with the District, depending on the union.

RELATED: Report predicts health tax will bleed Saanich’s coffers

RELATED: Saanich councillor speaks ill of new health tax

Despite criticism from municipal leaders, the EHT came into effect on Jan. 1.

Haynes said in his initial comments that he remains “disappointed” with this decision in trying to draw a clear line between the EHT portion of the proposed tax increase and the remaining portion.

This spirit also appears in the draft itself, which describes the introduction of the EHT as “an imposition” that will appear as separate line on property tax notices.

The Saanich News also reached out to all eight councillors and reactions so far also focused on the EHT. “I maintain that I am still disappointed the province downloaded the costs of eliminating the MSP in the form of the [EHT],” said Coun. Colin Plant.

Coun. Judy Brownoff echoed this point. “With the start of budget deliberations, it is important to recognize a few challenges we face. One is the new [EHT] adding a 1.5 per cent lift to property taxes,” she said. “Plus we are not immune to ‘non discretionary’ higher costs that are through external sources like hydro and gas usage.”

Both Plant and Brownoff acknowledged that the municipality faces challenges. But Brownoff stressed that the process has just started. “Yes, challenges always occur at the start of budget deliberations but as we have proven in the past, we will roll up our sleeves, listen to public input and in the next couple of months we will have refined the budget,” she said.

Plant struck a similar note. “While the budget presents us with some significant challenges, the reality is that these are the costs of having one, if not the best, municipalities in British Columbia,” he said. “We are a community that has not put off important investments in our infrastructure and gotten deep into debt. Our debt load for a municipality our size is very low.”

Looking at the premises that underpinned formulation of the draft budget, they did not identify any acceptable areas for service reduction or elimination, but also froze net departmental budgets at 2018 levels, exclusive of existing personnel costs, phased in funding for positions approved by council in the prior year, core capital increases, and non-discretionary increases, among other conditions.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

UPDATED: Goldstream Avenue re-opens after gas leak in Langford

Nearby schools not impacted by the closure

VicPD unable to locate suspect following James Bay ‘stalker alert’

Flyers posted around neighbourhood warn of man being followed and a verbal confrontation

’Tis the season for holiday cheer with a Ken Lavigne Christmas

Enjoy the magic of the season with the region’s largest indoor snowball fight

West Shore RCMP looking for suspects after Langford site hit twice with graffiti

Police urge the public to report any vandalism they witness

UPDATED: Police raid 23-year-old cannabis compassion club in Victoria

Supporters gather outside the Cannabis Buyers Club on Johnson Street

B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Province working with RCMP to address the force’s B.C. budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Louis C.K. accuser ‘infuriated’ by Canadian comedy booker’s defence

Accuser says she did not consent to C.K. undressing and masturbating in front of her

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference faces criticism over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Use of force deemed justifiable in arrest of suspect after snowy chase near Nanaimo

Independent Investigation Office of B.C. reports on incident from late last winter

Most Read