The City of Victoria is seeking public input on its final draft Financial Plan and draft Strategic Plan.
For over a month mayor and council have been reviewing both documents, which are now up for public discussion.
“We really want to hear from the community what they feel the direction should be for Victoria over the next four years,” said Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement. “On behalf of City council, I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to dive deep on the draft budget and strategic plan, and let us know what they think the priorities should be.”
The draft 2019 budget aims for a budget of $244.7 million, which includes for the first time $2 million for the required employer health tax for City workers, which will replace MSP rates.
The province requires all employers whose payroll exceeds $500,000 or more to cover this cost, and the City of Victoria employee payroll costs over $1.5 million.
The plans also have a capital budget of $118 million, which includes major projects like the replacement of Crystal Pool, a new Fire Hall #1, and the bike master plan. Annual capital budget funding is in part funded by property taxes.
The overall tax increase will be 4.3 per cent, which includes 1.45 per cent for the Provincial Health Tax. The total tax increase without the Health Tax for 2019-2023 is therefore 2.85 per cent. Combined with utility fees, the overall impact to taxpayers is 3.76 per cent.
For an average household (estimated value of $743,000) this means estimated property and utility taxes for water, sewage, solid waste and stormwater will total to $3,497. This proposed increase will see total funds from property taxes in the 2019 budget to be $11.2 million.
Priorities and issues outlined in the budget include supporting small businesses, creating affordable housing options and creating active transportation options.
Support for arts, culture and events will see a $1.5 million investment, while $5.5 million will go to continued funding for the Central and James Bay sxweŋxwәŋ tәŋәxw Greater Victoria Public Library branches.
Infrastructural investments include $34 million in parks, recreation and facilities, and $975,000 to improve city streets.
For emergency services, $57 million is allotted to police, $17.6 to fire services and $1.9 million to bylaw officers.
The City also has climate change commitments, including a goal to see an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and “a shift form GHG-intensive fossil fuels to 100 per cent renewable energy” by 2050.
The City would also like to invest $580,000 to see an improvement in emergency preparedness and management strategies.
The 800-page 2019 budget and 23-page draft strategic plan are both available online at victoria.ca.
There will also be a Budget Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be interactive and webcast live.
Residents can also take an online survey in regards to the draft budget and the draft Strategic Plan until Jan. 20. The survey can be found at victoria.ca/budget.
City council will consider the draft plans and all public input received in early February.
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