Coun. Rebecca Mersereau is uncomfortable with a proposed tax increase of 4.73 per cent but warns of finding savings by cutting funding for capital expenditures. (Black Press File).

Saanich council will consider tax reduction scenarios for 2020 budget

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau however warns of cutting additional funding for capital expenditures

Saanich staff will prepare “strategy-related” budget reduction scenarios of one and two per cent as council meeting as committee of the whole signed off on budget guidelines for the 2020 budget Monday night.

Council made that decision unanimously after receiving a staff that offered a “very high level forecast of the 2020 budget” and outlined guidelines shaping future discussions. Current “preliminary” estimates call for what several councillors call a “status quo budget” in terms of services with a proposed increase of revenues from property taxes by 4.73 per cent.

“It is always interesting when the document says status quo, when people then [ask] why has everything go up,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “But things go up.”

RELATED: Report estimates Saanich taxpayers face a preliminary tax increase of 4.73 per cent in 2020

The list of guidelines that councillors considered saw staff seek “direction from [council]” on budget reductions scenarios after Valla Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance, had raised questions about them. Noting that Saanich had generally failed to act on options that staff had previously presented, Tinney said in her report “it [would] appear that this historical reduction scenario approach is ineffective and a non-productive use of staff time.”

Staff, in other words, were asking councillors why they [staff] were bothering with reduction scenarios, when councillors rarely acted on them.

Several councillors, however, appeared unwilling to accept this assessment in questioning the initial list of guidelines.

RELATED: Watchdog group says Saanich council needs a ‘reality check’ about taxes

“As fruitless as they [budget reductions scenarios] might have been in the last few years, council is essentially marching towards an increase of 4.73 per cent without having done any mitigation work in the guidelines,” said Coun. Colin Plant.

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau agreed with Plant in amending the guidelines with the instruction to include the two budget reduction scenarios that call on staff to ask for municipal-wide (rather than department-by-department) savings.

But if the two shared discomfort about the size of the proposed tax increase in calling for the reduction scenarios, they disagreed about potential area of savings: capital expenditures. Under one of the proposed guidelines, capital expenditures funded from current tax revenues would go up by two per cent plus a maximum property tax increase of 0.5 per cent to fund facilities capital repairs and information technology.

Disagreeing with Plant, Mersereau said she has a “huge amount of discomfort” about eliminating that guideline, as he had suggested during earlier discussions.

Saanich failed for more than a century to set aside enough funds to replace and is not yet clear whether the municipality will have enough for future needs, she said.

“I wholly recommend to my colleagues that we avoid pulling that from the budget,” she said. “It is our responsibility to future generations to remain disciplined on putting those investments into reserves.”

While the amended motion maintained said guideline, comments suggest the issue will return.

“As we go down the road the 2020 budget, this is probably the easiest meeting we will have in that whole long, long road,” said Coun. Susan Brice.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich councillor feels new Walmart at Hillside a step in the wrong direction

‘We’ll all fail our climate goals if we don’t make radical changes to land use,’ says the councillor

Crystal pool advocates hold mixed feelings as Victoria explores previously studied sites

Local neighbourhood associations, swimming advocates vote for different locations

Sidney hosts vigil for victims of plane shot down by Iranian missile

All 176 passengers, including 57 Canadians, died on Jan. 8

Remaining Danbrook One tenants ordered to vacate immediately

Property management company offering each unit $1,000 in ‘compassionate assistance’

Fashion Fridays: Look your best this year

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

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

Special prosecutor to review Cranbrook toddler drowning case

Evidence disclosure at issue in the case of a woman sentenced for criminal negligence causing death

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

10 B.C. cities break temperature records in winter storm

Quesnel dipped to -41.9 C, breaking a record from 1916

Unprepared for chemistry test, B.C. student begs superintendent to call another snow day

The student from West Vancouver promised he would study more, but was distracted by skiing and hot chocolate

Most Read