Oak Bay residents can expect tax increases this year, which will carry forward into the future.
Although it’s still early in the budgeting process, Mayor Kevin Murdoch said they will be required to address the district’s infrastructure deficit.
“We’re looking at tax increases this year and the next few years as we close that deficit gap,” Murdoch said. “Those tax increases are going to be really targeted directly at our infrastructure.”
He said the District has had studies to see how much it needs to spend on infrastructure, but current spending patterns are falling short.
“Right now, the roads we’re supposed to be funding, according to our pavement management study, [are] about $2.8 million per year. We’re currently funding this last year about $700,000,” Murdoch said. “So we’re looking at how to increase that.”
He noted for roadwork there are cost savings if the District is more aggressive because repair costs can increase as roads deteriorate.
According to Murdoch, Oak Bay gets about $800,000 a year from gas taxes, but recently that money has not gone back into roads. Rather, it was going into sewer projects and infrastructure reserves. Even if all of the gas tax went back to roads, Oak Bay would still be $1.3 million short of its targeted pavement spending.
Underground infrastructure — storm, water and sewer — will also need about $2.7 million per year, Murdoch said.
“Of the three options put forward by staff in terms of what we could do, one was essentially the status quo, one was a moderate increase and one was more aggressive — or what they called a faster approach. Which is really adding two per cent per year to the taxes to ramp up that piece for the infrastructure,” Murdoch said regarding the underground infrastructure. “While it wasn’t a final decision, the direction from council was to look at the faster — the more progressive— approach, the two per cent per year.”
Murdoch said that would raise about $5.5 million by 2022. Funding pavement projects fully could require additional increases, depending on council’s priorities.
“For us to do these big projects we need to have a lump of cash available, even if we borrow,” Murdoch said.
He noted part of the problem is that in past years Oak Bay hasn’t directly tied its budgeting processes to its strategic planning processes. It’s something he said the current council is working towards. He expects during the strategic planning session on Feb. 13 that all of the infrastructure, capital and operational projects will be listed together with some rough costing attached. Council can decide what should be given priority during the next phases of the budgeting and strategic planing processes.