VICTORIA -- The average homeowner in Saanich will be paying approximately $161 more in property taxes for 2021.

At a Saanich council meeting on May 10, council unanimously adopted its budget for 2021, which includes a 5.76 per cent property tax increase.

The tax increase will add approximately $8 million to the district’s gross expenditure budget of almost $374 million.

“Last year we went quite low,” said Saanich councillor Zac de Vries. “When you take that kind of two-year average I think that leaves us in a pretty good place and a relatively status quo approach while making necessary investments.”

De Vries says those investments include the district’s Climate Action Plan and Active Transportation Plan. He says the funds will support an increase in tree planting and the expansion of bike lanes.

All in all, the property tax increase allows Saanich to exceed its annual targets by allocating $2.6 million to the green initiatives.

“We are aiming resources at urban forestry and looking into the impacts of development and ensuring we have tree canopy coverage,” said de Vries. “We want to expand coverage because that’s a goal of ours.”

Council also agreed to spend $130,000 on community wellbeing initiatives in Saanich parks and the hiring of a new development officer to assist with firefighter training.

“Our parks have been heavily enjoyed over the last year and we expect that to continue,” said de Vries. “We needed to better resource the refuse collection.”

On Monday, Saanich council also agreed to allocate $515,000 to hire new members of staff to bolster the municipality’s delivery of services.

Council has approved the hiring of an economic development officer, whose role will be to support existing Saanich businesses while encouraging new businesses to locate to the district.

“We’re currently looking at what their exact job description will look like, but it will be aimed at growing the commercial tax base,” said de Vries. “That will take pressure off of our residents.”De Vries says the municipality’s 2021 budget will help to address the issues of climate change and transportation while supporting the need for affordable housing.

“We’re looking at ways to effectively, and with proper engagement, ways to bring those (affordable) units to market,” he said. “Part of that is ensuring our staff have the resources that they need to do the planning that’s integral to our community.”

Property tax notices will be mailed to homeowners by the end of May 2021 with payment due by July 2.