Lake Cowichan’s water and sewer parcel taxes are increasing in 2022.
At a special committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 1, council debated the merits of various increases for the two parcel taxes and during their March 22 council meeting, council adopted the new parcel tax rates, which are both set to increase by $100 in order to beef up the reserve funds for capital projects.
“The water utility reserve fund needs to be replenished after the recent completion of our new water treatment plant,” explained Mayor Bob Day, noting the “significant amount of water main replacement projects” still left to tackle due to the age of the infrastructure.
“I’m OK with this because I know we have depleted our water fund and we need to build it back up,” said councillor Lorna Volmaka. “We’ve got a state of the art water treatment plant here and we need to make sure it runs properly.
Council has applied for grants to help offset the costs of a $10.1 million sewage treatment facility upgrade that would see the provincial government pay the lion’s share of the project but those funds wouldn’t be available until 2023, if the grant application is accepted, making the need to keep saving money for expected increases in construction rates as the years pass.
Some councillors thought a smaller increase over a couple of years would be better digested by taxpayers. Councillor Tim McGonigle had asked staff to supply a few sewer funding options “to lessen the tax impact,” which is why a $100 increase for one year or a $50 increase per year over two years option was being investigated.
“I’m inclined towards the incremental increase,” McGonigle said.
He wasn’t alone.
“If we can put away $87,000 in 2022 into our sewer reserve fund, it’s something that we have to do,” councillor Kristine Sandhu said. “With $1,700 in that account, it doesn’t do anything. The more money we can put away, the better for everyone.”
In speaking to the need for the tax rate hikes, councillor Carolyn Austin said she knows “it seems like a tough pill to swallow at times, but I do believe we have to put as much money away as possible for a sewer, the way this town is growing with houses being built and going to be built and we really need to upgrade our sewer.”
Ultimately council opted for the larger increases over one year so landowners will be on the hook for $200 more per parcel to cover the increases.
Both taxes are billed to each property regardless of whether there’s a building on that parcel.