The Capital Regional District approved a provisional budget last week that includes an increase in operational spending as well as 50 new hires.
The increase in operational spending is about 6.2 per cent, or $16 million, bringing the total to $278 million.
Colin Plant, CRD board chair, said the proposed increases will cost the average taxpayer about 50 cents per week. The money coming into the CRD from property taxes will increase by about $1 million to a total of $72.9 million. Property taxes, or requisitions as they are called in the provisional budget, make up 26 per cent of funding for the operating budget.
Plant said a portion of the increase is based on the impact inflation has on things like goods and services, contracts, existing service mandates and salaries.
The next large chunk is the cost of the Core Area Wastewater Treatment project, which has been adding about $5 million per year to the budget, Plant said.
New initiatives such as parks and natural resource protection, improving drinking water, affordable housing and the hiring of 50 new staff make up another large part of the budget increase.
A total of $925,000, or the equivalent of $5 per household in the region, is being recommended as an expense to put into the capital reserve for the regional park system.
“We are buying land with the Land Acquisition Fund which everybody gives about $20 per household to…that $20 has not been kept up with the money it takes to take care of those lands,” Plant said. “The CRD has been buying lots of land for parks which is wonderful but we haven’t been putting money aside to take care of what we bought.”
Plant said the extra $5, on top of the $20 that is already coming from homes, will be put towards maintaining parks and natural resources.
About $40,000 has also been recommended for the CRD to work with the community to create a mountain biking policy for regional parks.
“We want to work with people who mountain bike and create a policy to guide how we’ll see mountain biking in the region,” Plant said.
An agreement to fund the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness is also factored into the budget with $150,000 going towards it for three years, according to Plant.
A statement from the watchdog organization Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria, said the CRD has failed to “consider the reality of life for many residents of Greater Victoria” and calls the tax increase unaffordable.
“The fact is, shrinking disposable income is pushing more Greater Victorians and Canadians into debt,” said Stan Bartlett, chairperson for the Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria in the statement. “It’s poverty by a thousand tax hikes.”
Bartlett said the tax hike will be passed on to residents that rent, local business owners, the working poor and seniors on a fixed income.
Plant noted that he hasn’t received very many complaints from community members who think the provisional budget is a bad idea and said a large portion of the budget increase – such as the increase in cost of living and the wastewater treatment facility – were things people knew were coming.
“The only way to maintain zero budget increases is to cut services each year,” Plant said. “If residents want to see no additional taxes paid beyond what they’re paying already, they have to tell us what they’re willing to not have.”
A proposal to hire 50 new employees is also part of the budget, many of whom would be hired for the core area wastewater facility and for affordable housing projects.