The District of Sooke is seeking public feedback on the municipality’s budget, which totals $31.5 million and includes a proposed six-per-cent property tax increase.
The draft budget contains $19.8 million in operating expenses and $11.7 million in capital projects.
Residents can share their views on the draft budget at an open house on Wednesday (Dec. 1) from 3 to 7 p.m. at Sooke Municipal Hall. For those unable to make it in person, an information video will be posted Friday (Nov. 26) on the district website. Residents can also ask questions online at letstalk.sooke.ca/budget or telephone 250-642-1634.
Mayor Maja Tait said the budget was difficult because council realizes it’s a tough time for residents continuing to deal with the pandemic and other life issues, while the district looks to increase taxes.
“Unfortunately, leaving our infrastructure and applying patchwork solutions to try and manage it later is not the right answer,” she said.
Infrastructure projects with the biggest price tags include wastewater treatment plant expansion, $4.6 million; road paving program, including Connie and Manzer roads, up to $700,000; Church Road roundabout, $276,000; multiple road design projects (Throup, Charters, Phillips, West Coast Road), and electric vehicle charging stations.
Due to unprecedented growth, the district hopes to add new positions, including a manager of engineering and a career firefighter, as well as increase the budget for parks auxiliary workers.
Similarly, the Sooke RCMP have repeatedly asked for more officers, and with the force inking a new collective agreement last summer, costs for policing could soar. The district is waiting for cost details from the federal government.
”We’ve been preparing for these challenges, and we’ll look at how to best fund these programs, either through our five-year financial plan or other means,” Tait said in late August.
Other additional items in the budget include the visitors centre, $5,400, Healthy Schools program, $5,000; and Sooke Family Resources, $30,000.
Over the last two years, the district has received more than $12 million in provincial and federal grants that have lessened the impact on the residential tax base. The grants are never guaranteed.
“The two things we heard most often through our official community plan and also stood out during our 2022 budget engagement were traffic and climate action. This budget reflects a measured response to both of these matters that will take more than one budget cycle to improve,” said Norm McInnis, the district’s chief administrative officer.
More details on the budget can be found at sooke.ca.