District of Sooke council has given third reading – one step from final approval – to a $22.2-million budget that will see a 7.17 per cent increase in the municipal tax rate.
The increase is due, in part, to a “staffing up” initiative that will see six positions added to the municipal staff in the coming year, including a municipal engineer, a chief building offier, and a file manager.
Those three positions have been added in an effort to deal with the backlog of building permit applications and the slow processing time.
In addition, a records management/committee clerk will be added as will a wastewater operator and a manager of wastewater.
That “staffing up” represents 1.9 per cent portion of the 7.1 per cent tax bump.
The budget also reflects the district’s commitment to a series of planning initiatives that include council’s strategic plan, the official community plan, an organizational review, as well as a parks and trails master plan and a transportation master plan– initiatives that account for a 1.6 per cent portion of the tax increase.
Other increases are outside the control of council as the municipality is now required to pay the provincial Employer Health Tax. That requirement accounts for a 1.06 per cent portion of the 7.1 per cent increase in taxes.
Another required increase is related to the district’s required 2019 renegotiation of its road maintenance contract. The district anticipates those costs will increase substantially and will account for 1.23 per cent portion of the municipal tax increase.
Capital costs have also had an impact on the budgeting process as new fire equipment and other equipment and capital projects have boosted the tax rate and accounted for 1.39 per cent of the proposed increase.
The 7.1 per cent tax increase will result in an average increase of $87 for Sooke households.