Sewer rate philosophy up for debate


Quantity option doesn’t sit well with some of council

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite

Despite a negligible rise in water and sewer rates for Oak Bay in 2017, a conversation about philosophy is long overdue, says Coun. Hazel Braithwaite.

Water and sewer together will cost the average user $3.17 more next year, with the bulk of the cost increase coming from the Capital Regional District sewer rate. The CRD jumps 28.5 per cent while the Oak Bay side rises .05 per cent. For water Oak Bay is up 0.75 per cent and the CRD up 0.5 per cent.

Sewer rate is collected based on 70 per cent user charge, the quantity of water used by a property, with the other 30 per cent through taxes.

“I just don’t agree that we should do it this way,” said Braithwaite, who didn’t support the first two readings of the bylaw to implement the 2017 rates. “The bottom line is basically it ends up being unfair to a larger family who uses more water. They’re paying for their water no matter what, it’s not that they’re getting more service.”

Residents with higher volume water usage pay more.

“For me it doesn’t work because its unfair. It puts an unfair burden on a larger family who perhaps has to do laundry numerous times a day and they’re going to pay more than a family who is away for six months out of the year. For the sewer it’s really the same service they’re using, it’s the same infrastructure, the infrastructure is there, whether they use it or not.”

Braithwaite voted in support during the final approval Friday afternoon only out of fairness, with a number of those who supported the bylaw through first two readings not in attendance. Water and sewer rates must be implemented by Jan. 1 for the billing cycle.

She’s also confident this will be the year council revisits the formula.

“That water is gong to out the same pipe as a family of two,” Braithwaite said.

“There are enough of us now looking at it that we’ll get a staff report at estimates and have a look at it,” Braithwaite said.

During second reading of the bylaw Coun. Kevin Murdoch also opposed, citing some concern as year over year the CRD costs will rise.

Mayor Nils Jensen noted it was a “matter of philosophy” and perhaps time to revisit. It was something Braithwaite hoped to look at in 2016, but staff are confident they’ll have a report with options available for council during estimates meetings set for March 15, April 12 and April 19 at 5:30 p.m.

The bylaw to set water and sewer rates came alongside a provisional budget, offering “broad strokes” of where the estimates conversation will begin in the spring.

Total expenditures in 2017 are budgeted to increase by $4,105,203, largely due to capital projects including the Uplands sewage separation project, which is being funded by a reserve. Increases in other expenses are primarily due to increases in labour costs, contracting and consulting costs.

The net effect is 4.16 per cent increase in the municipal property tax levy. The effect on average individual property depends on several factors. For example, to the extent that the 2017 assessment roll includes new construction added to the tax base in 2016, the typical increase for the individual property owner will be less than 4.16 per cent.