City set to dive into budget talks

Mayor and council will be diving into discussions about the 2017 budget this week.

The City of Victoria will have their plates full this week, as mayor and council will be diving into discussions about the 2017 budget, which includes a potential 2.9 per cent combined property tax and utility bill increase.

In June, staff began working on next year’s budget and presented a roughly 1,000-page draft financial plan to council during a meeting last week.

The proposed budget totals approximately $224.5 million and the draft capital budget is roughly $51 million, with increases coming from operations at 1.7 per cent, increased capital investment at 0.63 per cent and a slightly higher budget for the Victoria Police Department by 0.78 per cent.

According to a staff report, the main drivers are salary increases, hydro rate increases, a decrease in traffic fine revenue from the province and water costs.

The budget also includes funding for the city’s affordable housing reserve, funding for active transportation and storm drain projects, as well as options for the replacement of the fire department headquarters.

The capital plan proposes active transportation projects such as Fort Street corridor bike lanes, along with Heron Cove and Raymur Point bridges along the David Foster Harbour Pathway, the rehabilitation of seven residential streets and several upgrades to Hollywood, Raynor and Central parks.

It also includes upgrades for city facilities such as the Victoria Conference Centre, parkades and community centres.

Council began budget discussions earlier this week and will continue in the coming weeks.

Coun. Geoff Young said there are a “whole lot of issues with the budget,” and noted council and staff need to make it clear to the public when it comes to the changes in specific charges.

Coun. Chris Coleman said many people are feeling the burden of taxes, which will “colour some of their conversation (this) week.”

The report also estimates a surplus of roughly $2 million.