Central Saanich council has signed off on funding for a permanent, full-time climate action and natural environment coordinator.
Council last week approved the position without any opposition, although Coun. Chris Graham had opposed the item when councillors had debated it during committee-of-the-whole earlier this month.
The move comes two years after the municipality had declared a climate emergency and updated its climate leadership with more ambitious targets.
The budget impact of the position is $87,400 in 2021 and an additional $28,700 in 2022, or tax increases of 0.48 per cent and an additional 0.16 per cent tax increase in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Staff say the municipality’s overall operating budget is dropping by 0.4 per cent in 2021, despite the additional post.
A grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had funded a climate action specialist for the past two years and the question of Central Saanich putting its own money toward a climate action coordinator had become a test of its commitment toward fighting climate change.
“Should the District want to continue advancing its Climate Action initiatives as a strategic priority and advance the climate action work plan presented in the attached report, a staffing resource with knowledge and expertise in both climate mitigation and adaptation (is) required,” reads a report from Christine Culham, chief administrative officer. She added that existing municipal staff lacks expertise in the field of climate change. “(Nor) is there capacity to take on this work portfolio with existing resources without adjusting other strategic priorities and adjusting service levels.”
Overall, the municipality foresees funding its climate action plan through reserves and surpluses in the short term with property taxes coming into the mix as the program becomes more established.
Within this context, one key role of the new coordinator is to secure grants to help fund climate action initiatives and offset costs.
Central Saanich had explored the possibility of sharing the position (and its costs) with Sidney and North Saanich, but both communities declined the opportunity in pursuing their own respective positions. Sidney is currently advertising for a climate action coodinator.
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