$1.1-million surplus eyed in Esquimalt municipal budget

Being a homeowner in Esquimalt is about to get pricier.

Being a homeowner in Esquimalt is about to get pricier.

Township council is forecasting a tax increase of 2.15 per cent – the first increase in three years.

Mayor Barb Desjardins said the township’s infrastructure, like most across the country, is aging and requires upgrading.

“One thing we did this year is really listen to the taxpayers and they said, ‘we want you to fix some roads, we want you to fix some sidewalks.’ We allocated larger amounts to those two areas,” she said.

With the increase, the township will top up its reserve funds and anticipates a $1.1 million budget surplus by the fiscal year end. Some money from the surplus will likely go to Admirals Road upgrades.

Esquimalt receives more than 40 per cent of its municipal budget from the Department of National Defence through payment in-lieu of taxes. Most of the money comes in July and the second instalment in late fall.

The municipality by budget time, however, never knows how much they will receive from the federal government.

“This is what makes our budget processing rather special,” Desjardins said.

“We’re usually well behind everyone else because we’re trying to figure out what the PILT will be for the year. We have to be conservative because we don’t know from year to year.”

The township has been fortunate in the last few years because the base has been in a development stage, but Desjardins said she has seen years of negative growth too.

Among the major projects this year will be more work on Admirals Road and paving and other work on Lampson Street from Devonshire to Colville roads. Head Street is scheduled for sidewalk replacement. Work will also continue on the Esquimalt Village Project, Official Community Plan and recreation facilities.

The budget isn’t all good news for business and industry. Those groups are expected to pay 2.5 to six times the rate of residential property owners.

“We do recognize that with property increases it’s a very different increase to businesses, and it’s a different increase to industry,” Desjardins said. “We have to always be aware of that and see what we can do to ensure they’re getting

best value for their tax dollars too.”

 

Victoria Real Estate Board president Guy Crozier is encouraging  municipalities do their best to find efficiencies in all areas of their budgets and pass those savings along, to make homeownership affordable.

“Municipal tax increases are a reality of the increasing costs of operating municipalities to provide ongoing service to residents,” he added.

The Township of Esquimalt has an annual operating budget of about $26.3 million.