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Transit service levels safe for now

With at least four members leaving due to retirement, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission left a firm message to newcomers: no reduction in service hours.

The commission, which is made up of politicians from Greater Victoria, met Tuesday to consider a provisional budget for 2012/13.

“Leaving it at status quo is a reasonable thing for this commission to do,” said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard. While Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin suggested tapping the reserve fund for $1 million to balance the budget.

“If we tap the reserves slightly, that will get us through to the new commission,” Fortin said.

Transit staff had suggested leaving service levels as they are, which would cause a four per cent increase in property taxes.

The reserve fund is at $2.3 million, but could be needed to cover rising oil costs and upcoming labour negotiations.

“This is a provisional budget,” said Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton. “Personally I fall somewhere between what the staff has recommended and what Dean has said.”

Causton said taking a lesser amount from reserves would lower the tax increase without compromising the reserve fund.

“It will put the fund at risk, but we can draw it down slightly,” he said. “Then in January or February we’ll have a better idea of what the reserve fund will be.”

Saanich councillor Susan Brice suggested they send a message to the new commission by making a motion that there be no reduction in service hours and that the tax hike be mitigated by some use of reserve funds or other options.

“Four per cent is too high,” said Causton. “To get it to zero would deplete the fund too much, but two per cent (tax increase) I can see as achievable.”

 

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