Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.
Sooke Mayor and Council roll out the proposed [tax increases] budget
We will keep you up to date on proposed tax increases as presented by Mayor and Council. Print this page and share it with your neighbours who don't use the Internet, because this is the most current and accurate report in Sooke about the Budget roll out.
Send us your comments and we will publish them on our website!
Budget Update at April 2, 2001:
The bottom line is ten percent tax increases for Sooke. The reason for the increases is because the consultant (Stantec) and chair of the incorporation committee (Ed Macgregor) erred in their judgement. Ed Macgregor was the chair and, Stantec Consulting was the consultant.
The fundamental basis of the proposed budget assumes that the Federal/Provincial infrastructure grants will be approved in full and that the council initiative to build a sewer system has received public consent. Furthermore, the budget assumes exponential growth and development to steadily increase the revenue side of the balance sheet. The expense side of the balance sheet does not account for inflation over the next twelve years. This is neither a balanced budget nor a realistic budget.
When asked by the public to bring a revised budget back to the table that was more in line with the estimated tax increases of the incorporation study, Lorna Barry and John Farmer suggested that the only way to do that would be to close the library for a few days a week. They also cut policing services.
The residents of Sooke are paying $130,800 for sewer studies, but assuming that the infrastructure grants are approved, and that the council initiative receives public consent, and that there is exponential growth and development in Sooke, then the budget estimates a recovery of these costs in 2005 due to exponential development and growth which will generate revenues to cover these study costs.
One more thing. The proposed budget discontinues the monitoring of the stormwater water quality surveys that cost about $21,200 per year. Ron Dumont suggested in the meeting that this contract with the CRD be cancelled immediately.
Sooke did purchase a waterfront park for $315,000 in 200 and will spend $1,127,800 on beautifying this park in 2002 (Proposed Budget Page 12 of 14).
The budget will be finalized in May. For more detailed information, please see Preliminary budget figures may see service cuts or tax increases.
Budget Update at March 21, 2001:
The financial plan for 2001 to 2005 was presented on March 19, 2001 at the Committee of the Whole Meeting in Sooke. Tom Day presented the overview and the financial statements to Mayor and Councillors for their review.
Overall, the proposed tax increase to everyone is 5.46%. This does not include the average tax increases of $629 per household per year for the sewer system. Please note that this figure was published in the application for grant on March 15, even though the Consultants, Mayor and Council stated that they had no idea what the average increase might be on March 14 at the Sewer Study Open House.
Tom Day suggests that the residents of Sooke could afford tax increases more than 5.46% when he compared Sooke rates to all of the other neighbouring municipalities around Sooke.
Please note that when WRATH asked them for information about how much it might cost to hook up to the sewer system, based on recent information from our neighbouring municipalities at the Sewer Study Open House on March 14th, the Consultants, Mayor, Council and administrators had no idea.
Seems rather suspicious that they can provide such incredible detail about taxes, but not costs to hook up.
Back to the budget. The cost over run for the budget is being blamed on the consultant (Stantec) that did the incorporation study. The consultant (Stantec) made significant mistakes in underestimating costs, and miscategorized expenses as being covered by the regional taxes and not the municipal taxes.
The Sooke Incorporation Committee, which was chaired by Ed McGregor (our current Mayor), also missed these significant mistakes. So, considering that a consultant (Stantec) and the same Mayor (Ed Macgregor) will be overseeing the cost estimates for the sewer system, we can probably expect serious miscalculations and categorization of eligible grant components. So, what's changed? Ed now has $24 million tax dollars to err with.
No matter. Mayor and Council started looking for options to cut the budget. They have no power and control over regional tax elements and expenses, so they are limited to municipal taxes and services. Here are some of the proposed areas that could be cut:
WRATH believes that this is a public safety issue, and should not be cut or limited.
WRATH suggested to the Mayor and Council that they return the pay raise that they gave themselves just after they assumed office. When we asked them, there was no indication of a willingness by Mayor and Council to reduce their stipends to their original levels.
It was interesting that at the last Council meeting, the entire Mayor and Council apologized to Ms. Wilford for their treatment towards her. At the Committee of the Whole Meeting on March 19, John Farmer opened the meeting with a public apology to Mr. Chris Hyde, for how Mr. Farmer treated him during the Open House on March 14.
Back to the budget.
So, how will Sooke pay for all these increases in the budget because of the errors of the Consultant and the Incorporation Committee, chaired by Ed McGregor?
"Growth", they say. Growth will pay for it all. Growth will pay for the new infrastructure.
Tom Day said that "He had no idea about the rate of growth in Sooke... It was a very slow year for growth this year." Contrary, John Farmer talked about predictions for incredible growth in Sooke. Was this for the benefit of the Sooke News Mirror?
WRATH asked the Mayor and Council for more information about predicted growth in Sooke. No one had any facts, figures, reports, or information to back up their claims.
So, what options does Council have? Based on their Agenda Handout, here are the options:
So, the Budget Schedule is:
WRATH urges members of the community to attend meetings on Monday evenings at the Council Chambers. The meeting packages are available for pick up on Friday afternoons from the Sooke office, or can be mailed to you for a small fee by the District of Sooke.
WRATH will continue to provide updates as the budget rolls out. We urge you to write letters about the overall imminent tax increases to everyone, and the imminent tax burden to buy a sewer system. The budget and costs will probably be in error, if the incorporation study and this budget are any indication.
If you have questions, concerns, ideas, comments, or are willing to volunteer a few hours of your time, please email WRATH.