The Victoria Council is contemplating giving the First Nations an annual grant based mostly on tax income
Victoria residents are asked for their opinion on sending cash to the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations
The City of Victoria will ask residents to consider the idea of giving the Songhees and Esquimalt nations an annual grant from property tax revenues.
The money would come from the “newly assessed income” of the city, ie the property tax from new developments and extensions to existing properties.
City councils decided to ask residents if they would support the creation of a grant that would cumulatively send 15 percent of revalued revenue to the two nations annually to demonstrate the city’s commitment to reconciliation.
The city’s new estimated revenue for 2022 is roughly estimated at around $ 800,000, which would translate into a $ 120,000 grant for the nations over the next year if the council decides to move the idea forward.
The grant would grow each year, adding 15 percent of the newly assessed income for the year to the amount transferred the previous year. For example, if $ 800,000 in revalued revenue was also earned in 2023, the amount for 2023 would be 15 percent of that plus $ 120,000 from the previous year, for a total of $ 240,000.
It is set to grow because new developments that add to new budgeted revenues continue to bring property tax revenues to the city every year after they are built, Mayor Lisa Helps said.
Helps said the city has taken reconciliation measures by building relationships, renaming places, and including indigenous place names in parks.
“And at some point, I think it is time to do a little more than just say at the beginning of each meeting that we recognize that we are in the home of the Lekwung-speaking people,” she said.
The goal is to share the city’s wealth with the First Nations. “Just as the city is doing well, the nations are doing well,” said Helps.
The idea was developed with the “City Family”, a reconciliation body made up of members of the Songhees and Esquimalt nations. The idea was presented to Esquimalt Nation Council and Chief Councilor Rob Thomas and will be presented this month to Songhees Nation Council and Chief Ron Sam.
It is one of around 50 items that Victoria city councils will be making available for feedback as part of the city’s budget process starting next week. Final budget decisions will not be made until the new year.
Count. Geoff Young, the only city councilor to vote against soliciting public contributions to include the idea in the 2022 budget, said he did not support it as the amount would grow.
“It can be said that it’s likely to be a pretty large number pretty soon,” he said.
Young said he feared the rising number would put future councils in a difficult position if they tried to address the city’s needs.
Victoria residents may wonder why city money is being sent to the nations while other communities aren’t doing the same, Young said.
The city will host a virtual budget town hall on November 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., where residents can share their views on this idea and dozens of other ancillary budget items.
These other items include $ 1.09 million for 10 new police appointments in Victoria, $ 1.07 million for statute support, and $ 276,000 for two new VicPD officers accompanying city council officials , and $ 1.13 million to address the effects of housing in parks and other public areas.