t the 2011 inaugural meeting of the new District of Sooke council, Mayor Wendal Milne outlined the new approach which will focus on sustainable spending, wage freezes for mayor and council, and a goal of no tax increases for the coming year while maintaining the community’s progress in improving the downtown core and providing ongoing support for non-profit, volunteer organizations.
“We heard loud and clear in the election process that the public wants to see more accountability and careful spending by council, coupled with improvements to basic amenities such as sidewalks and the downtown,” Milne said. “Our goal is to control spending to stop the spiralling tax increases while still providing basic services and moving Sooke forward.”
Milne said that council will immediately instruct staff to prepare an amendment to the Council Remuneration and Benefits Bylaw, to ensure no increases in remuneration for mayor and council over their three-year term. Staff will also be asked to “find creative ways” to meet the goal to reduce the proposed budget and a previously projected six per cent tax increase so there is no increase in annual spending in 2012 over 2011, and no tax increase for 2012.
While working for sustainable spending, Milne noted that Sooke needs to continue to move forward to achieve its long-term goals of improvements in accessibility and beautification to the core area, and play a role in supporting the many organizations that make Sooke a volunteer capital in Canada.
“We need to make sure that our decisions are balanced in order to support seniors, youth, arts and culture and the everyday worker.”
Under a new committee structure, the community can expect to see a more hands-on, transparent and open council that will play a stronger role in reviewing finance and land use issues, and offer more opportunities for public participation.
“I believe that transparency and accountability through public input and participation are absolutely necessary for us to succeed in gaining the community’s trust,” Milne said.
New standing committees in the areas of finance and administration and land use issues are to be established. Membership will include councillors and members of the public. They will all be open public meetings to review matters and make recommendations to council and will encourage community input and questions.
Milne acknowledged that Sooke has made a lot of progress since becoming a municipality in 1999, and he thanked the outgoing mayor and council members for their dedication and work.