View Royal is taking a tough look at its spending after its draft 2011 budget revealed a 9.1 per cent property tax increase would be needed to maintain the Town’s core operations at the current rate.
Reviewing the budget at a Feb. 9 meeting, councillors aimed to cut the budget shortfall in half by dipping into reserves, reducing a scheduled tax shift and delaying reports.
“We’re not considering service cuts at this point,” Mayor Graham Hill said, noting that option may come up later. “First we’re looking for ways to increase efficiencies internally.”
For View Royal to reduce taxes by one per cent means trimming $50,000 from the budget. The first place council looked for savings was the in its supplemental services — one-off expenses planned for 2011.
An additional newsletter was scrapped, a contingency fund for fire hall maintenance was cut in half, frequency of traffic counts on the Island Highway were reduced, work on an economic development strategy was put off one year and other reports were pushed back to be split over two fiscal years. As well, a $40,000 budget for a conservation plan for a rare Lime Kiln was capped at $25,000.
These reductions added up to about a 2.1 per cent tax savings.
The Town also shaved nearly two per cent off the tax hike by paying half of the $100,000 increase to its RCMP contract from a policing reserve and reducing the portion of library operational costs coming from property tax.
The Town will now pay for libraries 70 per cent from casino revenue and 30 per cent from taxes, rather than the 60-40 split planned for this year.
Combined, the cuts brought the planned tax increase down to five per cent. And there may still be more savings to come. Departments are going through individual budgets looking for redundancies.
Coun. Andrew Britton suggest councillors forego their scheduled two per cent wage increase and also not increase their expenses.
“If we’re asking other departments to cut back, we should be setting an example,” he said.
Some tax increase will be unavoidable. The Town took a significant hit to its tax base after the Great Canadian Casino successfully appealed the property assessment for its parkade, reducing the amount it pays in taxes by more than $100,000.
The Town is also seeing the impact of a 2010 wage review, that put labour costs up $135,000 to bring staff wages inline with other municipalities.
The draft budget can be downloaded from the View Royal website, www.viewroyal.ca, by clicking on “what’s new” at the top of the page. Copies are also available from Town Hall. Feedback on the budget should go to Director of Finance, Kathleen Day, email@example.com or 250-479-6800.
View Royal will also receive public input at its next budget meeting, Feb. 22 at 4:30 at Town Hall, 45 View Royal Ave.