2017: SOOKE Mayor has long to-do list as new year begins

Maja Tait has plans for a new library, hopes of keeping taxes low and wants more activity in town centre area

The start of a new year means a clean slate for most people and while weight loss or travel may top your list of New Year’s resolutions, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait is thinking a little bigger in 2017.

In a year-end interview with the Sooke News Mirror, Tait expressed a desire to begin construction of a new library, keep taxes low and “see more activity in the town centre.”

“Any tax increase has to be clearly defined,” the mayor said.

“If there’s an increase it has to be affordable and reasonable and respectful of taxpayer contributions, but with being fiscally responsible we have to meet the needs of today and we must save for the future by funding our reserves.”

Construction of the new Vancouver Island Regional Library is high on the mayor’s list.

Land for the library project was acquired last year near Evergreen Mall, but library officials said in November the project was stalled due to bureaucratic red tape at Sooke Municipal Hall.

(There’s even been some grumblings the location could move due to problems with the property).

“We’ve got the land and now I would like to see some momentum happening there. It’s a major goal,” Tait said.

Creating more activity in the town centre has been a goal of district council for years. It’s high on Tait’s list of things to do in 2017, which includes finding a way to encourage more development, improving infrastructure and road connections.

“We may not be able to complete some of those things, but we can perhaps start them, Tait said.

Tait would also like to see the district’s official community plan update completed, and review policies and bylaws that need revamping.

The mayor will be pressed in 2017 to improve health care and health services in Sooke.

The Sooke Primary Health Working Service Group, which Tait is a member, has been working towards increasing the number of family doctors here and attracting other services, such as a proper X-ray facility and expansion of Ayre Manor.

Tait expects movement on some of those issues early in the new year.

“There is talk of some of theses things coming together,” she said.

 

WHAT YOU’LL PAY FOR THIS YEAR

You’ll be opening your wallet a lot more this year as you can expect to pay more for electricity, car insurance and transportation.

Here are some of the services you will, or could, be shelling out more for in 2017.

• MSP – Approximately $530,000 families in B.C. will see an MSP increase this year. The new rates will see couples with an annual income of more than $45,000 paying an extra $14 month, or $168 a year.

• ICBC – Rates for basic insurance with ICBC are going up by 4.9 percent. Last year, rates rose by 5.5 percent.

• B.C. Hydro – Rates will rise by 3.5 per cent on April 1. The increase means the average monthly residential bill will go up by about $3.74.

• B.C. Ferries – B.C. Ferries fares are expected to rise by 1.9 per cent, keeping in line with  its annual pricing caps set out in 2015.

 

• Property taxes – District of Sooke council hasn’t approved a tax increase for 2017 – yet. Budget discussions begin this month. The Capital Regional District has approved an overall tax increase of eight per cent, which translates to about two per cent for most Sooke properties.