Oak Bay has plans for new planner

Tax rate stays low as new staff added

Oak Bay’s budget is out and a planner is in.

The municipality finalized its budget at a council meeting April 28 and a 2.99 per cent raise in property tax will be accompanied by the addition of three new staff members. The long wait for the only municipality in Greater Victoria without its own full-time planner appears to be over.

“Throughout the Capital Regional District communities our size or smaller all use the services of an in-house planner,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “It was felt it would be more efficient to have a staff planner than have a contract planner. That was important to continuity of decision making.”

Oak Bay council met over three days debating final discretionary budget items, also adding an Internet Technology technician to maintain and update the website and an executive assistant for Oak Bay Chief Administrative Officer Helen Koning. The three additional staff will cost the municipality approximately $43,000 in 2014, a number lowered by introducing them later on in the year and by capitalizing on efficiencies, including no longer contracting planners that cost the municipality $15,752 in 2013.

“I have been pushing (for this) since I was elected,” said Coun. Michelle Kirby. “The cost to the community in the long run by not having a planner puts us more at risk than paying that salary.”

Despite the additions, the property tax hike will be less than 2013’s 3.42 per cent increase for the average household, not including the solid waste charge. The solid-waste charge does however come in higher than last year, swelling from $210 to $249.50 in 2014, due in large part to curb-side pick up for the kitchen organics program expanded in January.

Total municipal taxes to be collected in Oak Bay is approximately $19,194,748 for 6,454 residential properties which includes 5,483 single-family dwellings, 745 stratas or condos, 226 classified as other and 231 business properties.

“We always keep in mind we want to provide excellent quality service for the resident while not overburdening with taxes,” said Jensen. “When you compare to other increases in the region, we are in the middle. That shows the kind of job council has been able to do culminating in this budget.”

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