Saanich taxpayers could foot up to $700,000 to cover “preliminary costs associated with issues” such as extra policing at the tent city that remains at Uptown in defiance of an eviction notice issued almost a month ago. More controversially, Saanich might have to amend its budget.
Valla Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance, is recommending that Saanich allocate the entirety of its operational contingency fund — $700,000 — towards the “management of issues” around Regina Park, the site of a homeless camp near Uptown. Saanich typically uses this fund to deal with weather related events. “[However], given the significance of the issues associated with Regina Park, staff are recommending allocation of the entire contingency.”
The camp designed to raise awareness about homelessness remains in defiance of an eviction notice issued June 8 after popping up in May. More than 70 people currently live on the site, and their continuing presence has led to rising costs in a number of areas, costs not anticipated in Saanich’s budget.
The camp officially known as Camp Namegans has been the subject of growing controversy since its appearance, with residents concerned about crime. The presence of more than 70 people has also raised a host of hygiene and safety issues.
“As these issues were not known during budget deliberations, they are not reflected in [council’s] 2018-2022 [financial plan],” she said. “Funds need to be identified to cover costs in excess of usual municipal operations. This estimate reflects additional costs if the issues remain to the end of the year.”
Ultimately, Tinney anticipates that the final bill for Regina Park could hit $950,000 by the end of 2018.
Most of this sum — anywhere between $600,000 and $700,000, according to police estimates — will cover the additional deployment of officers to the site. The report estimates that the installation and maintenance of a sanitation station could taxpayers up to $250,000. Saanich could also end up spending $10,000 to manage what the report calls the “significant volume” of incoming calls from residents and local business owners.
“Other costs not foreseen at this time may arise over the remainder of the year,” she said.
In short, the District leaves open the possibility that the the final bill could exceed $950,000.
One thing is already for certain. Saanich’s operational contingency fund will not be able to cover what the report calls the “highest cost scenario” of $950,000.
This leaves Saanich with two identified options. Transfer funds from other operational areas, or tap into the annual surplus. ‘This option involves reviewing how the 2017 annual surplus was deployed and altering the decision through a financial plan amendment,” she said. “Only items that are not already underway can realistically be considered.”‘
Tinney’s report also raises another scenario — that of a deficit for 2018.
“If major weather related events occur in 2018 requiring additional funding and the entire contingency is in fact needed for Regina Park, staff would bring back options to [council] to ensure Saanich does not have a deficit in 2018,” she said.