Advocacy group slams Saanich budget

Advocacy group slams Saanich budget

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria also questions Saanich’s transparency

An advocacy group questions Saanich’s proposal to increase revenues from property taxes by six per cent.

Bruce Kennedy of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria said Saanich’s proposed increase “far outpaces” inflation in B.C., which is running at about three per cent. “Do you know of any worker, student or retiree that got a six per cent raise this year?” he asked.

He made those comments as Saanich prepares for budget deliberations Feb. 26.

RELATED: Average Saanich homeowner will pay an extra $216 under draft budget

Saanich’s 2019 budget proposes to raise revenue from property taxes by 5.93 per cent. More than a quarter of this proposed increase goes towards covering the Employers Health Tax that Saanich has to absorb following the introduction of the EHT.

According to the draft budget, the tax applies to all employee groups working for the municipality, and replaces Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums,which employees either fully paid or cost-shared with the District, depending on the union.

Overall, the average Saanich homeowner will pay about $216 more in 2019.

Kennedy said Saanich once again failed to deliver a “moderate or sensible budget,” adding that Victoria will raise property tax revenues by 4.43 per cent.

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Mayor Fred Haynes told the Saanich News last week that the proposed increase represents a “big lift.” Saanich council, however, still has to go through budget deliberations, he said. He also added that he remains “disappointed” with the provincial government’s decision to download the EHT, which Saanich’s draft budget calls an “imposition.”

Kennedy also questions Saanich’s transparency when it comes to the budget process.

“While other municipalities have been talking about their budgets for months, it’s the first time that the administration of Saanich has graced the council and taxpayers with the draft budget,” he said.

Kennedy said Grumpy Taxpayer$ will be filing a complaint with the Auditor of Local Government to see if something can be done about the issue of improving transparency, governance and the budgeting process.

Saanich officials, for their part, have been talking about the 2019 budget process since at least the spring of 2018 when Saanich announced that it would update and improve its budget process.


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wolfgang.depner

@saanichnews.com