District of Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne

Sooke approves its 2012-2016 budget

Ongoing reviews in some areas of concern in financial plan

After months of meetings and going over the budget line by line, the District of Sooke council approved the 2012-2016 Financial Plan at a special council meeting on March 28.

Mayor Wendal Milne thanked the Finance and Administration Committee for the many hours they spend on reviewing the budgetary items. He said “significant” savings were found. He said there would be no change in the mill rate for local property owners providing there was no change in the assessments.

“The budget has allowed us to move forward on the roundabout and sidewalks,” said Milne. “This is a frugal budget.”

The $13 million budget shows the district is in a healthy position with approx. $1.8 million as a general operating surplus and $6 million in reserve funds.

One of the many cuts made to the budget were in the line items for travel/conferences and education, with cuts of over $45,000.

At the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Gail Hall asked why there were no capital expenditures for the public boat launch as there was a need for top-up funds.

Milne said it was not there because they were still conducting some reviews.

Hall also asked if arrangements for property right-of-ways were complete for the proposed roundabout.

Milne also said that the final monetary and right-of-way arrangements with property owners were not yet complete. The roundabout is expected to cost $650,000 with another $150,000 shown for property purchase.

CAO Evan Parliament stated that the money for the roundabout would come mostly from gas tax revenues but the final figures would not be disclosed until it goes to a Request For Proposal (RFP).

“We don’t want to go into a blue bridge scenario,” said Milne. “We’re trying to make the decision whether to go ahead.”

One of the issues brought forward was the disruption of traffic on Sooke Road and the likelihood of construction taking place outside of normal business hours.

“We don’t want to make a negative contribution when we are trying to do something positive,” said Councillor Rick Kasper.

The one issue of contention and concern is the sewer portion of the budget.

Kasper said that the sewer reserves are not enough to cover the expenditures.

“We are working to reduce the operating costs,” said Kasper. “The sewer was supposed to be self-funded.”

It appears that all property owners in Sooke have been paying the deficit because money to cover the shortfall comes from the general operating  account.

Kasper said that problem was identified in 2007 and he assumed the previous council would have addressed it. The sewer operating fund is currently in a deficit position of -$287,694.

The 2012-2016 Financial Plan Bylaw and the 2012 Tax Rate Bylaw will be presented to council on April 10, 2012.