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Esquimalt holding the line on taxes in 2012

Esquimalt’s new favourite number is zero.

Council agreed in principle Monday night not to raise municipal property taxes this year.

The news comes just weeks after council agreed in principle to a 2.49-per-cent tax hike.

Nick Kovaks, co-chair of the Esquimalt Residents Association, hopes this achievement will attract more families, business owners and developers to the community.

“It sends a message out that we’re looking to do things more efficiently. It gives a tax break to residents and it ties in quite nicely with Esquimalt’s message of ‘We’re open for business, we’re open for development, come on in,’” he said.

Coun. Dave Hodgins agreed it is another step toward further enhancing the township’s reputation. “What drove the process was hearing from the public and the business community that we need to be competitive with our tax rates,” he said.

The zero-per-cent increase is largely thanks to “conservative budgeting and budget efficiencies in 2011, which allowed us to appropriate some surplus funds from 2011,” said Laurie Hurst, Esquimalt’s chief administrative officer.

Budgeting is done conservatively, in part, because of the uncertainty around assessed values of federal properties in the township, and the timing of federal tax payments, she said.

Highlights in the municipality’s 2012 budget include bolstering its capital projects reserve and contingency funds, setting aside funds for potential police transition costs, doing additional Craigflower Road upgrades and sewer upgrades and developing a multi-modal transportation plan.

Not having to raise municipal property taxes is reflective of a lot of hard work, Mayor Barb Desjardins said.

“How wonderful to have it happen on our hundredth birthday,” she said. “It is a birthday present to us and to the residents of Esquimalt.”

Esquimalt’s 2012 budget is expected to receive formal adoption on Monday (May 14).

emccracken@vicnews.com

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