Saanich homeowners will face an average tax rate increase of 5.76 per cent this year, an average of $161 per home.
On Monday, Saanich council passed its 2021 tax rate bylaw and its five-year financial plan bylaw, which establishes the operating and capital plans for its municipal programs.
The district will mail tax notices and information to all property owners before the end of the month. Property taxes are due on July 2.
Last year, Saanich council cut the property-tax increase to the rate of inflation to provide relief for residents hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Councillors initially reduced the 2020 tax lift to 3.74 per cent from 7.2 per cent, then slashed it again to 2.4 per cent.
Additions to this year’s budget include $2,644,000 on climate action to accelerate the active transportation plan, direct funding to the climate action reserve fund for key projects and improvements to Saanich’s vehicle fleet. It will also create new positions in sustainability and urban forestry and have more money for tree planting.
Council approved $515,000 for new positions in finance, human resources, legislative services, facility operations and planning.
New positions will be created to ensure efficient use of software for tax and utility billings, development and calls for services. There will be a new position to help with transportation inquiries and complaints.
Affordable housing, land use and infrastructure management will receive $282,000 to hire new staff to work on housing planning and policy issues, map the urban forest and work on critical capital infrastructure projects.
Council approved $130,000 to support community well-being through a volunteer appreciation event and a parks refuse collector to remedy garbage overflow in heavily-used parks. The money will also fund a staff development officer in the fire department to ensure firefighters are trained.
The district plans to improve economic diversification by allocating $60,000 to fund a new economic development officer.
“I’m pleased this year’s budget decisions will allow us to provide excellent service delivery to Saanich residents as well as continued progress on our strategic plan initiatives and actions,” said Mayor Fred Haynes.
Villa Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance, said the district takes into account the changes in property assessments when it establishes the tax rates.
“There is no windfall,” said Tinney. “The important thing to understand is the assessed value we’re looking at is July of last year. So all of the things that have happened with property values recently aren’t factored into where we are right now.”
Each year, assessed values for every property change.
It depends on a lot of factors all established by B.C. Assessment, said Tinney. They figure out what all the properties are worth.
The tax rate takes into account how assessments change from year to year, she said.
“We set our tax requirements and what we advertise is the increase to the average homeowner. What that means is we have some properties that went down, some stayed the same and some went up. We look at what is the average change in assessed value.”
The municipality doesn’t have any control over assessed values. It just establishes its tax rate and what each individual property owner experiences is a factor of what happens with the value of their home, said Tinney.