Sooke council mulls 5.5% tax increase

Sooke council mulls 5.5% tax increase

The increase would add $55.96 to the average residential tax bill

Sooke residents could see a property tax increase as high as 5.58 this year, according to budget data released by the district last week.

The increase would add $55.96 to the average tax bill, and comes in midst of a number of proposals of improving protective and district services, upgrading or replacing firefighting equipment, as well as several additions to town core infrastructure such as sidewalks and road improvements.

This includes long-standing priorities such as repairs on Goodmere Road, Murray Road drainage and study, and a sidewalk from Otter Point Road to the Hope Centre on West Coast Road.

“We’re going to see increases in all departments in one way or another, except for council,” said Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, adding the budget is not extravagant in any particular area, but more adaptive to where Sooke is now.

“It’s just recognizing that we have a growing population and we have to bring our infrastructure up to a reasonable standard, such as our roads, which are in rough shape all over the place.”

Among council’s top 10 priorities are a fire apparatus replacement plan, fire department level of service, communication plan and strategies, a financial plan, an official community plan refresh, an amenity contribution policy review, advocate regional transportation options, look at alternative transportation options for emergencies and simplifying the development approval process.

Operating budgets went up as well. In 2016, the spending budget was a total $18,442,326, compared to 2017’s draft spending budget of $19,399,574. This means an increase of 5.19 per cent, or $957,248.

Overall, it’s important to remain focused towards the town core, so Sooke taxpayers see their money working, said Coun. Rick Kasper.

“We spend the taxpayers’ money, more than $4 million, in the downtown centre to benefit the people of Sooke and all the businesses. That’s a huge amount of money to make it look better, to make traffic flow better. So yes, there’s more to do, but it’s a priority,” he said.

Budget talks continue March 22, 23, 29 and 30.