Sooke council mulls 4.45% tax increase

Preliminary details on 2018 budget released this week

Population growth and development are driving a proposed 4.45-per-cent tax increase for Sooke property owners this year.

At a committee of the whole meeting Monday night, Sooke council heard preliminary details about the 2018 budget, which will be considered over the next month.

The proposed tax increase is $66.12 for an average household, based on as assessed home value of $442,982.

Between 2019 and 2022, the amount homeowners pay is expected to increase by 2.85 percent in 2019, 2.79 per cent in 2020, 1.93 per cent in 2021 and 2.77 percent in 2022. These are averages – the individual amount varies depending on assessed property value, location and actual use of services.

According to budget documents, Sooke’s spending will increase by more than $1 million this year, to $20,501,431 from $19,399,635.

Operating costs will make up more than 43 percent of the expenditures, at $13.2 million, which includes community safety ($4.1 million), loan amortization ($2.6 million), development services ($2 million), sewer operations ($1.7 million), and other administrative functions.

Sooke’s revenue comes mainly from property taxes, utilities, and government grants and fees.

RELATED: Sooke tax hike tops 5.5.per cent

Brent Blackhall, director of financial and corporate services for Sooke, said historically low taxes are forcing the district to play catch up.

“We are still dealing with population growth and its affecting every department,” he said. “Those things are coming together, and I think that’s why you’re seeing increases.”

Capital expenditures are the focal point of this year’s budget and include $700,000 for year one of the five-year road program, $250,000 for repairs to the Municipal Hall for sprinklers and plumbing, $150,000 rebuilds for park staircases, a $100,000 washroom at John Phillips Memorial Park and a $150,000 for electric car charging stations.

Staff increases are needed in several departments, according to budget documents.

The budget includes the need for more seasonal park staff, firefighter, a development services technician and a part-time bylaw officer.

The district also faces contract negotiations with both CUPE and Mainroad.

But despite many expected increases in the budget, Blackhall said council has the opportunity to reduce the tax rate for this year to just under three per cent.

It’s an idea not lost on council.

“I think infrastructure is our biggest need. We’re growing at an alarming rate,” said Coun. Bev Berger.

“I’m going to be pretty focussed on the needs and wants. That means our sewer and roads. Everything else is a want.”

Last year, council passed a budget increase of 5.57 per cent budget increase for residential homeowners.