The VRBA has written to Saanich’s Mayor and Council outlining our concerns regarding the mayor’s proposal to cancel the amalgamation study and reallocate the $250,000 intended for this initiative. The reason given is budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.
Our points include:
- The City of Victoria has managed to commit to a zero property tax increase while continuing to fund the amalgamation initiative;
- Mayor Fred Haynes’ memo to council suggests avoiding using the annual surplus funds for shortfalls caused by the pandemic. However, surplus funds are exactly the appropriate method of addressing unexpected circumstances and costs like COVID-19;
- The Mayor suggests cancelling the amalgamation study saves $250,000 which could be “assigned to other strategic initiatives.” Few initiatives outweigh a study that would improve regional planning, housing affordability, transportation and infrastructure;
- The Mayor also supports continuing to spend $3.8 million on IT which would still result in a 2.4% property tax increase. It’s likely savings of $250,000 to support the study could be found here;
- There is a significant increase proposed in the Corporate Services budget from $7.8 million to $8.7 million, an increase of almost 12%. The spending includes “2020 Key Priorities” such as:
• Develop a crisis management plan/protocol;
• Enhance the Saanich Spotlight community newsletter & increase subscribers;
• Implement media monitoring software.
We don’t believe spending on these activities should override an important amalgamation study.
Of course the most important issue is that cancellation and reallocation of funding overrides the majority of voters that supported the amalgamation study. Cancelling the study during the pandemic when there is limited opportunity for public input is entirely inappropriate and even autocratic.
Send a message to Mayor Fred Haynes that the wishes of the majority of Saanich voters should be respected and upheld, even during a pandemic.