Coun. Rebecca Mersereau is uncomfortable with a proposed tax increase of 4.73 per cent but warns of finding savings by cutting funding for capital expenditures. (Black Press File).

Saanich council will consider tax reduction scenarios for 2020 budget

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau however warns of cutting additional funding for capital expenditures

Saanich staff will prepare “strategy-related” budget reduction scenarios of one and two per cent as council meeting as committee of the whole signed off on budget guidelines for the 2020 budget Monday night.

Council made that decision unanimously after receiving a staff that offered a “very high level forecast of the 2020 budget” and outlined guidelines shaping future discussions. Current “preliminary” estimates call for what several councillors call a “status quo budget” in terms of services with a proposed increase of revenues from property taxes by 4.73 per cent.

“It is always interesting when the document says status quo, when people then [ask] why has everything go up,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “But things go up.”

RELATED: Report estimates Saanich taxpayers face a preliminary tax increase of 4.73 per cent in 2020

The list of guidelines that councillors considered saw staff seek “direction from [council]” on budget reductions scenarios after Valla Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance, had raised questions about them. Noting that Saanich had generally failed to act on options that staff had previously presented, Tinney said in her report “it [would] appear that this historical reduction scenario approach is ineffective and a non-productive use of staff time.”

Staff, in other words, were asking councillors why they [staff] were bothering with reduction scenarios, when councillors rarely acted on them.

Several councillors, however, appeared unwilling to accept this assessment in questioning the initial list of guidelines.

RELATED: Watchdog group says Saanich council needs a ‘reality check’ about taxes

“As fruitless as they [budget reductions scenarios] might have been in the last few years, council is essentially marching towards an increase of 4.73 per cent without having done any mitigation work in the guidelines,” said Coun. Colin Plant.

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau agreed with Plant in amending the guidelines with the instruction to include the two budget reduction scenarios that call on staff to ask for municipal-wide (rather than department-by-department) savings.

But if the two shared discomfort about the size of the proposed tax increase in calling for the reduction scenarios, they disagreed about potential area of savings: capital expenditures. Under one of the proposed guidelines, capital expenditures funded from current tax revenues would go up by two per cent plus a maximum property tax increase of 0.5 per cent to fund facilities capital repairs and information technology.

Disagreeing with Plant, Mersereau said she has a “huge amount of discomfort” about eliminating that guideline, as he had suggested during earlier discussions.

Saanich failed for more than a century to set aside enough funds to replace and is not yet clear whether the municipality will have enough for future needs, she said.

“I wholly recommend to my colleagues that we avoid pulling that from the budget,” she said. “It is our responsibility to future generations to remain disciplined on putting those investments into reserves.”

While the amended motion maintained said guideline, comments suggest the issue will return.

“As we go down the road the 2020 budget, this is probably the easiest meeting we will have in that whole long, long road,” said Coun. Susan Brice.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Open house seeks public input on proposed lease for piece of Victoria High property

Open house takes place at Vic High on Nov. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Son of Second World War veteran returns to Norway to see site of rescue, repatriation

Six-man crew crash lands in Nazi occupied territory, only known instance of entire crew surviving

Colwood house helps homeless veterans get back on their feet

Cockrell House has helped more than 100 people since it was established in 2009

Colwood veteran recalls harrowing experience during Second World War

The 95 year old one of 32 survivors after German sub sinks warship

Legions help keep the memories alive

Legions offer many services for the community

VIDEO: Pups in the pool: West Shore rec centre’s Dog Swim a success

West Shore Parks and Recreation goes to the dogs Sunday night

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry after negative comments about immigrants

Don Cherry had said immigrants don’t wear poppies like other Canadians do

Trudeau’s new cabinet: Gender parity because it’s 2019? Or due to competence?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet

Canada among three G20 countries least likely to hit emissions targets

It says Canada, South Korea and Australia are the farthest off

Conservatives’ Scheer wants Trudeau to open Parliament Nov. 25

That’s five days after Justin Trudeau is scheduled to swear in a new cabinet

Last remaining Centurion tank from the Korean War makes its journey ‘home’ to B.C.

Tank arrives in B.C. the day before Remembrance Day after a more than 4,500-kilometre transfer

Canadians mark Remembrance Day this morning

This year exactly 101 years to the day after the end of the First World War

Devils strike early, hang on for 2-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver now 0-8-3 in last 11 games versus New Jersey

Most Read