EDITORIAL: High taxes. Low taxes. It’s a question of infrastructure.

Sooke taxpayers have paid low taxes for years. Soon, they’ll have to pay the piper

Sooke councillors are stuck between a rock and a hard place as they stare down a 3.3 per cent average property tax increase for the 2021 budget.

For the last nine years, the average tax hike on residents has been 2.16 per cent, with the highest occurring in 2019 when it was 7.18 per cent. In places other than Sooke, councillors would be applauded for their handling of the city finances – but in Sooke, it’s a different story.

RELATED: Sooke taxpayers brace for 3.3 per cent tax hike

It’s nobody’s surprise that Sooke has been repeatedly cited as one of the fastest-growing communities in the province. But there’s the rub.

As the community grows, so do its infrastructure costs from roads to sewers to parks and sidewalks. Don’t forget about the inevitable downloading of services onto the municipality from senior levels of government.

Contributing to Sooke’s problem is the disproportionate ratio between residential and commercial properties. Sooke needs more commercial properties that pay a higher tax rate.

The municipality is treading water, which is OK for the near future but could be disastrous as the infrastructure begins to age and there are no savings to replace it.

This year, the council couldn’t cut the budget significantly because most of what Sooke offers to its residents is essential services such as police and fire departments. In other words, there’s not a lot of gravy here.

Mayor Maja Tait admits the province serving up COVID-19 relief funding helps now, but eventually, the money has to come from somewhere, and it will likely come from higher taxes.

There are options, of course: increasing user fees, trimming programs and services here and there, cutting grants to community organizations, closing underused facilities. But most of these are stopgap solutions to what will be an ongoing budget dilemma over the next few years unless more money starts flowing into the municipality.

Councillors and district staff, of course, know the challenges. They understand they need to be ahead or on top of growth that they know is coming. Later this year, the staff is expected to unveil an asset management report on what needs replacing (and their cost) now and in the future. There are already new policies in place on hiring related to growth.

RELATED: Homes values surge across Greater Victoria

“We’re getting there, and I think once we see that infrastructure happen, it will make more sense,” Tait said.

Property taxes are unpopular. Indeed, most public sentiment studies about alternative tax programs consistently find the property tax the most disliked.

As Benjamin Franklin so morbidly reminded us, taxes are a reality, and it’s the only route forward in Sooke’s case.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

In Our OpinionMunicipal Government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Most Read