Burden lighter on Esquimalt taxpayers

Proposed tax hike continues to be scaled back by councillors

Esquimalt property owners will likely bear the lowest municipal property tax hike in at least a decade this year.

Just when Esquimalt property owners were bracing for a possible tax increase of 5.18 per cent, the latest budget tally points to a 2.49-per-cent increase, residents heard at Monday night’s council meeting.

Council also announced at the meeting that the Province is contributing $75,000 to fund arts and culture events for the township’s centennial celebrations this year. This is helping offset the tax increase.

“I think there will be discomfort here and there but I think all in all (the proposed increase is) probably the best I could have hoped for,” said Coun. Lynda Hundleby. “I was concerned that we might have to do some really painful cutting, and I think we can live with this.”

Other measures are keeping the hike on the smaller side.

The township’s $93,000 annual inter-municipal and local grants budget is being been trimmed for 2012.

“It took some time but we reached a comfort level of cutting back 20 per cent,” Mayor Barb Desjardins said. “It will make it more challenging for the local grants committee.”

Other cost-saving measures include postponing a traffic study for bike lanes on Lampson Street and a Lyall Street study, which could cost a combined 70,000, until next year.

More “small opportunities” to trim the budget could also be identified before the township’s 2012 budget receives final approval by early May, Desjardins said.

“In order to meet the deadline of our budget, likely major changes at this point will not occur,” she said. “It will all be around how do we allocate it now out to the different (budget) categories.”

On April 2, council will discuss the calculation of tax rates for residential, business, major and light industrial property owners as well as those in the non-profit recreational category.

emccracken@vicnews.com