Adam Williams – Kamloops This Week
Taxes for water usage and sewage service are rising in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
The TNRD board of directors endorsed a host of recommendations from its utilities systems committee at its Oct. 13 meeting, which will combine to increase taxes for anyone receiving water from a TNRD water or sewer service.
Parcel taxes charged in water and sewer service areas for “other indirect costs” will be increased to $15 per parcel per month per service, from the current rate of $10. Any taxes that exceed the actual costs incurred will be transferred into a utilities capital reserve fund.
Utility user-fee rates for each service will also be increased “sufficient to fund expected direct cost increases over the five year period from 2017 to 2021.” The current cap on user fees will be indexed for inflation and increased to a $125 maximum from a $100 maximum
All changes will take effect on Jan. 1.
“Part of the problem is, the last time the board really took an in-depth look at this, it was 2010,” TNRD director of finance Doug Rae said.
At the time, the board elected to roll out increases over a number of years, so as not to shock taxpayers. But by the time the new fee structure was fully implemented five years later, the rates were sufficient to meet 2010 costs, not those of 2015.
“We’re a little bit behind the 8-ball already because we kind of waited to see how it went,” Rae said.
The new changes were brought forth in an effort to put the systems on a more financially sustainable track. Rae said that, while the utilities department works to control and reduce costs, inflation is real and services need to be cost effective — under the current system, 2015 saw a shortfall of $92,480 for utility administration, not including salaries.
The hope is the new system, with rates set for a five-year period, will provide predictability and certainty to customers. While all areas will see increases in parcel taxes, some should see slight decreases in user fees.
“People undervalue water,” said director Ken Christian, who also sits on the utilities systems committee. He noted the increases are the reality of what it costs to provide clean water via the systems.
Electoral Area P director Mel Rothenburger made an effort to postpone the increases, citing the need for more consultation with parcel holders, before levying an increase.
He said he was not arguing against bringing the services to a sustainable place, but rather that residents should be consulted about what needs to be improved and the best way of doing so before increasing taxes.
The motion to postpone was defeated, with only Rothenburger and Electoral Area E director Sally Watson voting in favour.
“The director of finance indicated there is some urgency to putting these water systems on a sustainable track,” Christian said. “I would suggest that we should put this in place now as the ground floor of what these water systems need to be sustainable moving forward.”
Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar echoed Christian’s thoughts.
“Asking the public if they think paying more for water is a good idea, I’m pretty confident what the answer will be,” he said.
The board heard that the utilities systems committee considered all impacts of the increases and had a “spirited debate.”
Rae later clarified the increases will need to be brought back to the board as bylaws later this year, prior to which public consultation in affected areas will occur.
The TNRD operates 11 water services and two sewer services. Pritchard is the only area serviced by the TNRD for both water and sewer. The Paul Lake sewer service does not charge user fees.