A freeze on management and council salaries, possible staff layoffs and limiting police and library budget increases to two per cent are all up for consideration as Victoria looks to keep its 2013 property tax increase to 3.25 per cent.
Many of the proposals have already been discussed by councillors in closed sessions and will now be presented to the public for feedback at budget-information sessions slated for next month.
Mayor Dean Fortin said it’s not just about making cuts.
“It’s about recognizing what is important and continuing to do those services that our citizens rely on and need — roads, parks, boulevards, water — but at the same time recognize that we’re hearing from our citizens they are finding property taxes and continual increases are not sustainable.”
Council this year agreed to move to a three-year budgeting cycle and limit annual tax increases in each of the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 to 3.25 percent.
If the proposed cost-cutting measures are implemented, the city will meet that target for 2013 but will still need to shave another $3 million from the budget over the next two years to meet the 3.25 percent cap in 2014 and 2015. Proposed budget-reduction measures totalling about $1.67 million include:
-- Zero salary increases for mayor and council in 2013 (potential annual savings: $9,000)
-- Change to council taxable remuneration — returning to one-third tax-free model (potential annual savings: $56,000)
-- Zero salary increases for exempt staff in 2013 (potential savings: $200,000)
-- Limiting budget increases for library and police to two per cent for each of 2013, 2014, 2015 (potential savings: 2013 — $602,000; 2014 — $483,000; 2015 — $484,000)
-- Transfer 1.25 percent of 2013 tax increase to capital budget, instead of 1.5 per cent, by removing “new” capital work proposed for 2013 (potential savings: $275,000)
-- Partial automation of some parkades during slow periods (potential annual savings: $300,000).
-- Advertising in parkades or on parking machines (potential savings to be determined)
-- Shift from annuals to perennials in some garden beds (potential savings: $150,000 annually).
-- Reduction in city-led seasonal programming in Centennial Square (potential savings: $82,000 annually)
-- Review the organizational structure to identify efficiencies and savings (potential savings: unknown).
Senior city staff acknowledge that some of the initiatives, such as automating parkades or switching to perennial plantings, would have an impact on staffing.
City finance director Brenda Warner said coming in under the 3.25 per cent cap is not easy. Salaries and benefits account for about 52.6 percent of city expenditures, and the existing CUPE union agreement, which expires at the end of 2013, includes a two per cent wage hike.
“The 3.25 per cent has been split so 1.25 per cent is related to capital dealing with the infrastructure deficit,” Warner said. “That leaves two per cent for operating budgets. So with collective bargaining to get to two per cent means cuts.”
Councillors Shellie Gudgeon and Lisa Helps hope an organizational review now underway will offer concrete suggestions for more budget economies.
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