Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.

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Sooke council considers 4.5 per cent tax increase
By Bryan Dreilich for the Sooke News Mirror April 11, 2001

Preliminary Sooke district budget figures indicate Sooke property owners may face a 4.5 per cent tax increase this year, which translates to about $20 per average $160,000 house.

Wrath Comment: The budget document reads 6.5 per cent tax increase for 2001 on the books.

The 4.5 per cent increase is lower than the 5.21 per cent figure estimated two weeks ago, but higher than the 3.4 per cent budget increase projected last year.

The latest budget projections, which show an operating budget of $3,230,600, also show a continual tax increase of an additional five per cent each year for the next 12 years.

These numbers adhere to hopes that Sooke will experience a steady 1.5 per cent growth rate for nine consecutive years beginning in 2004.

The budget also factors in assumptions that certain grants will be forthcoming such as the sewer grant, Highway 14 corridor upgrade grant, and a park grant.

"This budget assumes too much. It may be prudent to have a back-up budget in case we donít get the grants or growth," Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes member Judith Burke told council at a committee of the whole meeting April 2.

District Chief Administrative Officer Tom Day said if the grants are not forthcoming, the work for the projects will not be done, so no costs will be added to the budget.

Despite the tax increase, the proposed budget does not include funding for an 11th RCMP member requested by Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Don Brown.

"I donít feel the [RCMP] internal man-power study means we should pay for 11 of 15. Ten is more prudent for taxpayers," Tom Day told council.

Day said that the proposed 12 year budget plan is contingent to the growth rate in the community.

"If we have a growth rate of three per cent, the tax increase would only be three and a half per cent, similar to the incorporation study," he said.

The latest preliminary budget forecasts that by 2003, business licenses will bring in $15,000 annually. Subdivision/rezoning fees will be at $20,000 by 2005.

Two weeks ago, the preliminary budget considered $10,000 towards boulevards for tidying the areas such as Edward Milne community school and creating more prominent walkways. The most recent budget plans do not include those expenses.

Mayor Ed Macgregor told skeptics at the latest budget meeting that in order to attract development, basic infrastructures would be provided.

Council is now banking on a steady growth rate to keep individual taxes at a five per cent annual increase. However, some taxpayers arenít quite content with the preliminary figures.

"Five per cent is unacceptable. As a taxpayer, Iím opposed to it," WRATH spokesperson George Butcher said.

Day said there will be a public input process for the budget April 18, and the budget bylaw goes to council May 7 and May 14.



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