Deer management is on tight pursestrings for 2016 after council removed the $30,000 tentatively earmarked for ungulates projects during final stages of budget talks.
“We are going to manage deer,” said Coun. Kevin Murdoch. “The longer we wait the more expensive the issue will become.”
He reintroduced the topic after the funds failed approval in a 3-3 tie during estimates discussions. Coun. Tara Ney was absent for that meeting. The funds failed to be approved in a 4-3 vote Monday night.
“It’s frustrating … it becomes our problem,” Ney said. She sees it as a two-step process, first resourcing some experience then a plan “that’s regionally designed and we need it tailored to our community values.”
Ney feels they could take the $10,000 in the budget for deer management, remaining from last year’s budget, and leverage it with a provincial grant.
“I’m very interested in a scientific approach,” said Coun. Eric Zhelka, saying he would not support the extra funds, as council did not accept a partnership proposal from the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society. “We turned our back on them.”
Council instead chose to investigate developing or funding its own independent survey of attitudes towards deer in the community.
Not adding $30,000 nixes any deer management for the year, said Mayor Nils Jensen, adding the funds in place would cover the attitudes survey.
“We have to be clear this means we don’t do anything,” agreed Murdoch, noting funding would be revisited for the 2017 budget. “In my mind that’s too long.” That, he added, would leave UWSS and similar organizations in limbo.
“It’s important we do have money in the budget to work on deer management before 2017,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite. “That’s not to say we’re not going to work with (UWSS) or another group.”
Ney disagreed, pointing to the $10,000 carried over from last year that remains in the budget.
“With limited funds I think we can come up with a plan,” agreed Zhelka, suggesting Oak Bay could strike a deer committee. “That’s something I’ll put forward in the future.”
Coun. Michelle Kirby reiterated her longstanding position to “leave the province their deer to manage.”
“Unless we have our partners in the region, it would be folly to carry on with the expense of deer management,” Kirby said.
Two grant in aid requests were also revisited during Monday’s council meeting.
Canada Day festivities funding through City of Victoria at $1,000 was re-instated after Braithwaite brought it back to the table.
“It does attract 50,000 people from all regions,” said Braithwaite. “It’s important because so many of our residents do attend.”
NEED2, Suicide Prevention and Support’s request didn’t make the cut, despite being re-introduced by Kirby.
NEED2 brings programs such as its Suicide Education and Awareness Program, a free classroom workshop designed to bring suicide awareness, prevention and education, to students in Oak Bay.
“This does support a program that is run by volunteers mostly,” Kirby said, adding it supports Oak Bay youth. “It’s a lifesaving thing and there’s nothing more valuable than that.”
Council gave the organization a grant last year, but warned that Oak Bay could not continue to fund something that should be provincially funded, noted Murdoch.
Other tentative approvals for grants include: Heritage Foundation, $3,000; Vancouver Island Film and Media Commission $10,000; Greater Victoria Bike to Work $2,000; Friends of Uplands Park, $1,500; Oak Bay Sea Rescue $3,000; Oak Bay Music Society $500; Oak Bay Artists (Bowker Creek Brush Up); town crier honorarium $250; Oak Bay Volunteer Services $5,000; BC Maritime Museum $1,500; St. John’s Ambulance $1,200.
The draft budget must be approved by council by May 15. The next council meeting is May 9 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at 2167 Oak Bay Ave.