A draft of Central Saanich’s 2018 financial plan is out for review and comment, and property taxes are set to increase by 2.97 per cent (3.6 per cent including water and sewer rates).
That’s about a $58 increase for the average household. which the District says is lower than the average rate increase over the last five years. While it highlights many long-term goals like replacing aging water and sewer infrastructure, about a third of the increase is for the Central Saanich Police Service.
Mayor Ryan Windsor said one cause for the increase is a new centralized police dispatch for 911 calls in 2019.
“Our previous deal with the RCMP in the West Shore was a little low,” said Windsor. “It was a nice deal, but it was never going to be permanent.”
He said that deal cost “in the neighbourhood” of $20,000 per year, which he said was well below the actual cost of running it. The migration will not happen until 2019, but the bulk of this year’s increase in policing costs ($110,000) is for new radios, which all CRD emergency services (police, fire, ambulance) are migrating to. By 2019, the District will pay their roughly $200,000 share into the new Vancouver Island Integrated Dispatch Centre (for police dispatch only), which will be located in Commerce Circle in Saanich.
“That’s a vastly improved call answer service and from my perspective the Capital Region has lagged behind say an area like Vancouver with E-Comm service and having everything under one roof.”
Windsor said both the new radios and the integrated police dispatch service were inevitable costs, and the District chose to buy the radios before 2019 so the approximately $310,000 did not have to be spent all at once.
Provincial statistics from 2016 put the cost of Central Saanich’s police force at $292 per capita, whereas Sidney/North Saanich RCMP was at $189. Windsor said it was not fair to compare a municipal police force with one run by the RCMP. In smaller communities, up to 30 per cent of the cost is covered by the federal government, but if those communities feel they lack police resources, they cannot increase the size of the force at will (it must go through RCMP provincial headquarters). By comparison, Saanich Police cost $297 per capita and Victoria Police cost $493 per capita.
Windsor said they try to have four officers on at all times. They are more responsive to needs of the community, but do not enjoy the partial offset provided by a senior level of government.
Other increases are for water and sewer utilities. The District expects a three per cent annual water rate increase for five years, beginning in the 2020s for fire protection supply improvements.
Sewer upgrades will cost about $5 million over five years, with $3 million in assistance from senior levels of government and the rest from reserve funds.
The District is still accepting public comments on the budget from Central Saanich residents until March 6. To comment, visit placespeak.com/en/topic/5618-budget-2018. Public meetings are also being held Feb. 27 and March 6 from 7-9 p.m. on various aspects of the budget, with a final presentation to councillors March 13, also from 7-9 p.m.