The City of Duncan is now considering a 3.02 per cent tax increase for its property owners in 2019.
Council and staff were debating a 3.89 per cent increase early in the budget-building process a few months ago, but during budget discussions since then, it was noted there was an additional operating expense needed for the city’s firefighters’ turn-out gear.
Those costs would have brought the tax increase to 4.07 per cent.
The City of Duncan has historically tried to keep tax increases in its annual budgets at or below three per cent.
Last year’s tax increase was 3.5 per cent and the 2017 increase was 2.4 per cent.
Council is considering reducing costs in a number of areas to bring the tax increase closer to three per cent, and those recommendations were at the council meeting on March 4.
They include reducing the city’s police-bridging capital levy from a 3.5 per cent increase to a 2.5 per cent increase, with savings of approximately $8,200.
Also included is having a new planning technician start work in July instead of in April as planned, with a savings of about $7,800, and reduce funding for the Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre by $4,000.
The hiring of a new engineering manager and a planning technician are also in 2019’s draft budget, but the city’s finance director Bernice Crossman said both of these positions are replacing a student position, so the city is not actually adding additional staff.
“The engineering manager position would be scheduled to start in April of 2019 and the planning technician is being included in the proposed budget, but with the instructions to come back to council in July for additional consideration before implementing,” she said.
The city is planning to host an open house to seek public feedback on the draft budget on March 11 at city hall, beginning at 4 p.m.
The final adoption of the budget is expected on April 15.
Mayor Michelle Staples said keeping the tax increase as low as possible has been the goal of council since budget deliberations began.
“We’ve been looking at every possible area to see where we can cut back, and we’ll continue to try and identify other areas where we can lower costs until the budget’s final adoption,” she said.