Esquimalt council downsizing proposed property tax increase

Continued paring of budget leaves more in pot for contingency funds

Esquimalt’s proposed property tax increase is plummeting like a broken elevator.

Council was ecstatic about four scenarios presented by staff last week that ranged from 2.49 to 1.73 per cent.

“This is the work of miracles,” Coun. Tim Morrison said of the proposed increases, which he called “unprecedented in recent memory.”

A tax hike at the top end of the range would allow the township to put $173,000 into a reserve fund to cover potential policing transition costs, if the provincial government approves Esquimalt’s request to contract services to the RCMP.

That scenario would also restore the municipality’s capital projects reserve and contingency funds to previous levels. A 2.49-per-cent increase would see homeowners pay an extra $56 on average, while businesses would face a $239 increase.

To lighten the business tax burden, staff said $63,000 in tax revenue needn’t be collected in the business property tax class if council were to choose the 2.49-per-cent scenario.

In a four to three vote, council nixed the idea.

Though that scenario “gives you a little bit of candy in every corner,” Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said, more details are needed.

“I don’t know that (the $63,000 reduction is) going to have significant impact on the businesses,” she said.

One of the other options given was a 2.21-per-cent hike, under which homeowners would shell out $50 more, while businesses would pay a $212 increase. That level of increase would still bolster the capital projects and contingency funds.

Staff have been asked for additional tax-rate packages. Council must sign off on the township’s 2012 municipal budget by mid-May.

emccracken@vicnews.com

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