Mayor and council put forward recommendation for future water and sewer parcel tax charges

At last Tuesday’s meeting, town staff presented mayor and council with their recommendations to implement a $100 water parcel tax.

Mayor Forrest, the rest of council, and town staff put forward their recommendations for what to charge local home owners for the proposed water parcel tax, and to add to the existing sewer parcel tax.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, town staff presented mayor and council with their recommendations. The memo states that a municipality can charge taxes against each parcel as one method of recovering costs. A parcel is any designated area of land, excluding highways.

It goes on to say that “the parcel tax can be levied on any property that has the opportunity to be provided with a service regardless of whether or not the service is being used. Therefore parcel taxes would also apply to vacant property(ies).”

Currently each land owner in Lake Cowichan sees a $50 charge for the existing sewer parcel tax on their yearly bill. Staff has researched other municipalities in the area and reports that Ladysmith currently charges $100 for a sewer parcel tax, and $269 for a water parcel tax. Chemainus charges $216 and $399 respectively, while Duncan only charges for a sewer tax at $20.

The proposed water parcel tax would allow the town to start setting aside funds for the 2015 provincially mandated secondary water source.

“At Tuesday’s meeting we recommended that we up the sewer one to $100, from $50, and implement a $100 water parcel tax. The reason for the water one is right now we are mandated to come up with a secondary water source by 2015. The estimated cost is around $3 million,” says Forrest.

“So, we either start paying now, and have some money put away so we don’t have to borrow the $3 million, because we don’t have that money, so the more we put away over the next two or three years, before we have to do this, the less we’ve got to borrow,” explains Forrest.

The mayor stressed that as of right now the proposed amount is just a recommendation and nothing is finalized.

“There are still bylaws to be changed and it has to go through the regular council process and some public consultation,” says Forrest.

The town hopes that there will be funding opportunities provided through the provincial government, but they do not want to assume that will be the case.

“We can’t go under the assumption that we’re going to get it (provincial funding), we have to go under the assumption that we won’t get it, that we’ll have to pay for it,” says Forrest.

“We fully appreciate that people are taxed quite a bit already. So it was a tough decision to make, and we haven’t finalized any decision, but that’s the recommendation.”

Secondary water sources include ground source, well locations, or ultraviolet sources. According to Forrest, Nagi Rizk, the town’s superintendent of public works and engineering, has been researching the most cost effective alternative water source, and those which most meets the needs of the mandate of VIHA.

At the general public meeting set to take place this November, Forrest says the public will have an opportunity to voice suggestions and concerns, and he adds that he will likely give a presentation on the options open to the town.

Council is split on the issue of how much to charge, and Forrest says there have been lengthy discussions over the past couple of years since the province issued this secondary water source mandate.

“But you know what, I don’t know one person from the public that wants to pay more taxes. So it’s a tough decision we were elected to make and we didn’t want to make it, but we have to make it,” says Forrest.


Other notes . . .


The water metering program is on schedule, but no numbers have been determined as of yet in terms of how much to charge residents for water usage. Charging will begin in January of 2013, but Forrest says that these charges will not be any more than what people are already paying on their yearly water bill, if they are conscientious of their water usage.

Stuart Schuitema of Reindeer’s Natrual Plant Foods gave a presentation at Tuesday’s meeting proposing his company as an option for the organic waste collection. Forrest says that before Schuitema can be considered council would need to see a business plan. This same business plan would have to be submitted to the CVRD along with proposals from other contractors.