I would like to outline some highlights of the 2012 year in Sooke, taken from the 2012 Budget to actual analysis presented at the Finance and Administration Committee meeting, March 19, 2013 (http://www.sooke.ca/EN/main/documents/agendaminutes/documents/Mar1913FAAgendapkg.pdf).
Sooke’s legal costs were $278,021, which is over budget by $188,021. Most of the justifications for this massive overrun are weak, especially the sales job regarding renegotiating the Prestige Hotel deal. This council cancelled a fixed yearly contract with our legal firm of $110,000, seemingly for no good reason other than because the previous council negotiated it. Keeping the old contract would have saved Sooke taxpayers $168,021 for the 2012 fiscal year.
The Council contingency was over budget by $74,671. The majority of this overrun has been attributed to eight and 13-month severance packages for two non-union employees. I would presume this would pertain to our former CAO and director of finance. One can conclude from this that since significant severance packages were paid out that these two District of Sooke employees were terminated without just cause.
The RCMP budget was over by $101,373. Part of the overrun is attributed to the Subaru triathlon, an event I am sure we knew was happening during the budget process. As well for 2013, the policing budget is essentially the same as the actuals for 2012, despite the fact that, partially due to the inaction of our leadership, there is no more Subaru Triathlon in Sooke.
Planning Operations salaries were $13,361 over budget for 2012, and this is attributed to hiring an extra planner to help with creating a new zoning bylaw. The results include allowing vehicle sales and car washes in the town core.
The total cost overrun for these four items alone is $377,426. This is from a council whose first priority is “fiscal responsibility.” The Finance and Administration Committee, on March 9, recommended deferring construction of the Throup Road bypass and Highway 14 roundabout to 2014. Infrastructure upgrades are critical to a prosperous community. However this council’s priorities are to spend large sums of money on legal fees, severance packages, and rewriting bylaws that don’t need to be rewritten.