Capital Regional District sewage levy concerns mayors

Taxpayers will see a 19 per cent increase from the CRD to cover the cost of the proposed sewage project.

Victoria and Esquimalt residents are in for some sticker shock when they open this year’s municipal tax notice.

While both Victoria and Esquimalt have announced a small two per cent tax increase, local taxpayers will see a 19 per cent increase from the Capital Regional District to cover the cost of the proposed sewage project.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said collecting such a large amount from taxpayers is concerning.

She said there is no sewage project in place and even the numbers aren’t valid at this point.

“I believe we should be collecting to be prepared, but we shouldn’t be over collecting,” she said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is of two minds.

“The concerning piece is that we are collecting money for a project that we don’t know exactly what it is yet, [but] over collecting in one year means when push comes to shove and shovels go into the ground the costs won’t be so sudden to our taxpayers.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants are riding on the success of the sewage treatment program.

The CRD’s sewage-treatment project has a budget of $788 million, of which the federal government has committed $253 million.

When municipalities send out annual tax bills they collect for other agencies such as the CRD and school district, among others.

Desjardins said there are limits, though.

“We shouldn’t be collecting for sewage at this time. It’s frustrating.”

In the meantime, a potential list of 20 technically feasible sites for wastewater treatment and resource recovery facilities in the westside communities of Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood and Langford has been compiled by the Westside Solutions technical committee.

The sites – which will not be identified by location at the present time because several of them are privately owned – were selected based on their size and their proximity to existing trunk lines, potential outfalls, neighbourhoods, and existing developments that could take advantage of resource recovery opportunities.

“This is a positive step forward, but we have more work to do yet,” said Desjardins, co-chair of Westside Solutions.

“The Select Committee is reviewing the report and will combine it with ongoing input from our public engagement process. These parallel processes will help us arrive at a technically viable and publically acceptable solution for wastewater treatment and resource recovery in the westside. ”