MAYOR’S MESSAGE: District steps up to help during pandemic

MAYOR’S MESSAGE: District steps up to help during pandemic

Mayor Maja Tait says local government offers 0% tax increase and other programs during COVID crisis

Maja Tait | Contributed

Life changed dramatically on March 16 when Premier Horgan declared a state of emergency.

Now after an unprecedented seven weeks of business anything but usual, British Columbians continue to follow all due precautions while beginning to redefine new normals for what will likely be an extended COVID era.

Just as the federal and provincial governments have developed myriad relief and response plans, local governments have stepped up to alleviate the challenges faced by individuals, businesses and the community at large.

RELATED: Sooke eyes more budget cuts due to COVID-19 pandemic

Municipal taxation is a matter over which we have direct control, so I’m pleased to announce that the District of Sooke is dialing back this year’s planned tax increase to zero percent. Council and staff spent countless hours hatching the latest Five-Year Financial Plan, and we’d settled on a 4.01 per cent hike in 2020 to cover basic services and planned infrastructure expansion.

Yet at council’s request last month, staff crunched the numbers and found small but telling cuts and deferrals across every department. We hope the extra cash in your pockets will help.

Our tax deadline remains the traditional July 2, however the tax notices distributed later this month will include a note reminding residents aged 55+ and those with dependent children that relief from any fiscal pinch may be available through the B.C. Property Tax Deferral Program.

The District also has the ability under the Local Government Act to streamline our application and development processes to keep local construction timelines on track. Public hearings for zoning and other bylaw amendments are impossible at this time, however our new director of planning and development Matthew Pawlow has identified a number of ways that we can continue processing applications while minimizing the inevitable delays.

As befits this compassionate community, the Capital Regional District in association with regional health authorities is using the SEAPARC arena as a temporary (until June 30) shelter for unhoused individuals from the Sooke region.

RELATED: Sooke rec centre to provide self-isolation space for homeless people

This has generated many questions and some concern, but let me reassure everyone that the facility is safe, secure, expertly run and for use exclusively by Sooke’s vulnerable population who need a refuge during these uncertain times.

In response to local feedback and Dr. Bonnie Henry’s renewed call last week to get outdoors, the district has reopened oceanfront walking trails at Whiffin Spit, Ed Macgregor Park and the Rotary boardwalk (the latter with one-way trail loop signage to avoid close encounters). Please enjoy the beautiful vistas and spring weather, keep your dogs on leash to protect nesting shorebirds and, above all, maintain that two-meter gap when greeting friends and neighbours.

Thank you once more for all the supportive calls and emails. By staying cool, calm and compliant with provincial regulations, we have truly flattened the curve. Let’s keep it that way, Sooke! We’re in this together for the long haul.

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Maja Tait is the mayor of Sooke.

OpinionSooke council