The bill for the former homeless camp in Regina Park is starting to come in, but it is not clear whether it will impact next year’s tax rate.
A draft report from the District of Saanich says the municipality could pay anywhere between $746,000 and $923,500 for all the costs associated with the homeless camp that had set up in Regina Park from early May to Sept. 13. Specific items include policing, the remediation of the park, storage for campers’ gear and a hygiene station with showers and toilets near Municipal Hall.
Policing costs alone could add up to more than $500,000. The total cost of policing will have reached $315,000 by the end of September, and authorities may spend anywhere between $55,000 and $232,000 for additional costs.
Saanich police closed the homeless camp on Sept. 13 following a court ruling. Some of the camp’s residents have since set up an encampment in Goldstream Provincial Park and are threatening to visit 100 locations in 100 days.
Mayor Richard Atwell said the estimates in the report appear in line with earlier estimates, but issues remain.
“Short term, it has drained our contingency fund,” he said. “Long-term, I think it’s under control. However, the next budget cycle will have to consider from where the contingency fund will be topped up.”
One question looming in the background is whether Regina Park would lead to higher taxes. Saanich residents heard in July their taxes will not go up in 2018 as council earmarked its entire 2018 contingency fund — $700,000 — towards extra costs associated with the tent city in Regina Park near Uptown.
Valla Tinney, director of finance, said in the summer costs associated with the camp will not lead to a tax increase in 2018, because tax rates are already set. Depending on circumstances though, it could lead to a tax lift in 2019, she said.
Atwell said that question will be part of the budget process. “We don’t know what the tax level will be until the new council deliberates on the budget process,” he said.
Stan Bartlett, chair of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, said this “huge tent city bill” is one of many Saanich taxpayers will face this year.
“With a major shift in councillors — there will be at least four — it’s the perfect time to start to do council business differently,” he said.