Oak Bay on course for 5.1% tax hike

Mayor calls rising taxes an "investment" that will enable council and staff to deliver meaningful results

Playing “catchup” at municipal hall could cost Oak Bay residents 5.1 per cent more in taxes this year.

The expected tax increase translates to about $155 for an average home in Oak Bay (average value $855,000), or $13 a month.

Council approved three readings of its draft budget Monday night and approved its coinciding strategic plan that outlines projects and priorities to 2018.

“Investments like these important, taxpayer-informed initiatives will enable council and staff to deliver meaningful results over the short and long term at a reasonable cost to homeowners. The ratio of community investment to long-lasting benefits returned to the community has been a key consideration in both the development of the strategic plan and the corresponding budget,” said Mayor Nils Jensen, referring to the four-year plan as a “deliberate and thoughtful road map.”

He called the plan sensible yet bold, adding it advances alternative transportation solutions and inspires land-use innovations and introduces new strategic initiatives.

“Council has approved a smart plan that is thoughtfully aligned with the human resources necessary to drive the implementation of the OCP and associated projects. We are investing now in necessities that have been deferred for many years and we are investing in the future in order to preserve and strengthen the livability quotient of our highly desirable community,” said Jensen

The objective of supporting reasonable growth is covered through the official community plan adopted last year. That OCP review process is also credited with the major public input taken into account during development of the strategic plan.

Earliest planned projects are infill development guidelines and policies and a secondary suites review to start this spring. The first element expected complete is the floor area review, with an amended bylaw expected to head to public hearing by June.

The second objective of being well-governed includes a review of staffing – with the planned addition of a human resources manager to the 400 current members of staff  – that includes training and succession planning.

Multiple software upgrades are expected including introduction of e-billing for property taxes in time for next year. The webcasting initiative could start this summer, but not be in place until next spring.  “A lot of this is catchup and filling gaps,” Jensen said.

Some work has already been phased in over the past two years, he added, noting the hiring of a district planner just this year.

“We’ll continue to do that until we’re in a place where we can move forward with appropriate resources,” Jensen said.

Items such as adding ‘culture’ to Parks and Recreation Commission, increasing the emergency co-ordinator to a full-time position, and review of municipally owned properties (1531 Hampshire, Carnarvon Park and Sports View lounge) fall under the objective of building a livable community.

Infrastructure objectives include infrastructure improvements, implementing a formal asset management plan, Uplands combined sewer separation project, the Urban Forest Strategy and a future building needs assessment for municipal police and fire departments.

A traffic speed study and infrastructure improvements including bike lanes, curb drops and sidewalks are among objectives for diverse transportation.

Finally, they’ll continuing to collaborate with the CRD on initiatives such as sewage treatment and the Bowker Creek restoration. They endeavour to introduce community-to-community forums with the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations.

While the strategic plan was approved April 27, council is expected to consider the budget for adoption during its May 11 meeting. Visit oakbay.ca to view Oak Bay’s entire four-year strategic plan.

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com