2012 has been a busy year for council and staff. Council achieved a zero per cent tax increase. A number of existing contracts were reviewed. These reviews resulted in saving in excess of $500,000 between 2012 and 2015.
Two key standing committees, the Finance and Administration Committee and the Land Use Committee were established and used extensively during 2012 to ensure transparency and accountability through public input and participation.
We began Webcasting our council and committee meetings in the fall of 2012 to enable residents to tune in live or look at archived meetings. Finally, council meetings have been structured to ensure public input and questions during and after each meeting.
Three advisory panels to the mayor have been established to solicit public input and provide advice to mayor and council on issues that would benefit the economic, social and aesthetic well being of the community. Funding has been made available for initiatives brought forward from those advisory groups.
Working with seniors and youth, we were successful in obtaining an Age Friendly grant for $20,000 to assist in making Sooke more age- friendly.
In early 2012 it was discovered zoning Bylaw 500, adopted in November 2011, had not been completed correctly and as a result a new zoning bylaw had to be created. This required extensive council meetings, public open houses and continued consultation with the community to ensure the new bylaw met the needs and expectations of the community while respecting the visions set out in the OCP. Considerable staff time and costs were incurred as a result of this correction process. Subject to further public input and council approval Bylaw 600 will be in place early in 2013.
I am disappointed with the lack of progress we made in the areas of accessibility and beautification. We had planned to complete a traffic circle and some accessibility improvements in the core along with sidewalk improvements on Church Road. Due to unresolved land acquisition issues in 2011, we could not proceed with those projects.
In 2013, our new Chief Administrative Officer Gord Howie starts on Feb. 1. We will be holding a strategic planning session with council and staff in the first week of February to chart out our priorities for the remainder of this council’s term.
Council will consider a number of initiatives and determine priorities for the remainder of 2013 and 2014. Some of those initiatives being considered will be:
• To review of our traffic and trail plans around the core area. We want to ensure that our commitment to accessibility improvements in the core gets underway, in addition to the completion of sidewalks on Church Road.
• Continue working on road right-of-way acquisitions to improve traffic movement and access to the harbour.
• Ensure our OCP reflects the vision of the community.
• Continue our commitment to improving life for seniors and youth by working to find activity centre space.
• Work aggressively with Vancouver Island Library Board, to bring to fruition the Sooke new library.
• Promote Sooke to attract visitors, new residents and businesses.
• Work with the mayor’s advisory panels to move forward economic, social and beautification issues identified by the community through the panels.
We have nearly completed the preliminary budget review for 2013. Based on the initial figures from the Assessment Authority, the needed tax increase to fund operational requirements is approximately .5 per cent, however, we are planning (subject to full council approval) to make the increase just under two per cent. This will allow us to put in excess of $100,000 in a Capital Works Reserve to fund future capital infrastructure programs. The Capital Works Reserve fund currently has approx. $12,000. We need to ensure we have a plan in place for future infrastructure improvements and not leave it to our kids to foot the bill.
We look forward to an exciting year in 2013 and I believe with council and staff working with the community, we can achieve much.
Wendal Milne, Mayor