There are a number of questions, often expressed with anger, frustration and disbelief, regarding the significant utility bill increases this year—especially during the global pandemic.
The SCRD board set this utility rate and parcel tax structure in late 2019. Utility fees are to pay for the costs of delivering the essential services of water, sewage and garbage collection, and cannot be revoked or deferred.
Water rates, especially, have significantly increased. Previously, the SCRD has been under-billing for the costs of delivering water and covering the shortfall through parcel taxes, also charged to you.
But taxes are not meant to pay for the basic delivery of our utilities, so we need to shift these costs over to the utility rates. Unfortunately making this shift does draw a stark picture of how much our most basic services do actually cost, at a most inconvenient time. These are such necessary costs as repairing the pipes, keeping the water clean at our treatment plant, monitoring water safety and distribution. Included in the utility billing is $650,000 in upgrades to support the significant water supply to the entire system from the new Church Road Well in West Howe Sound.
And we will still require parcel taxes to pay for new infrastructure costs related to water, such as meeting the great community need for more supply and the added challenges of climate change.
Also, every government in North America is dealing with the major challenge that infrastructure such as water pipes and sewage plants that were installed 30-50 years ago as we developed into modern communities, are in need of replacement.
Our board had a very difficult time making these decisions, but ultimately we’re confident that our communities recognize we can’t afford for our delivery of basic services to fail.
Despite being able to make adjustments to the property taxes for the SCRD (bills coming soon), utility bills were already being finalized when the Board discussed budget reductions due to the pandemic.
Andreas Tize, Director from Area D, has a great synopsis in his December 2019 newsletter: https://www.andreastize.com/post/december-2019-newsletter
We are not on every social media thread, so please contact us directly when you have comments, questions and concerns. The following link connects with directors: https://www.scrd.ca/about-the-board
Regardless, we recognize that we need to do better to communicate, especially in the current situation of COVID-19. Speaking on behalf of the board and whole organization, I am sorry so many of our property owners feel blindsided.
Sometimes in the intensity of difficult decisions, we as elected officials can take it for granted that people are paying close attention to these matters weighing so heavily on our minds, or at least reading about them in the media. And it is especially problematic when bills don’t actually show up until months later, during new, unexpected circumstances.
All the more reason to communicate more proactively, which our entire board recognizes, and is committed to doing.
Please also check out the website of Donna McMahon, Director from Area E, https://everythingelphinstone.ca/why-has-my-utility-bill-increased/