Esquimalt faces sewage tax hike

Estimated increase needed to cover infrastructure upgrade

Esquimalt property owners are bracing for a $60 increase on the average home as the Capital Regional District begins upgrades to the sewage system.

But the extra cost, targeted to cover the township’s share of upgrading the CRD’s northwest trunk sewer line, wasn’t entirely unexpected, said Coun. Lynda Hundleby.

“Those are upgrades that would need to be done anyway (as part of the sewage treatment project preparations),” said Hundleby, Esquimalt’s alternate director on the CRD board.

The township has already spent millions of dollars relining its own sewer pipes in recent years.

This latest increase may find its way onto 2014 property tax bills. Hundleby worries about the possible implications for the hundreds of apartment dwellers in Esquimalt, many on fixed incomes.

“I feel for everybody who has to pay more, whether they’re a renter or an owner. It’s difficult for some people and OK for others,” she said.

As for the financial implications of this and future billing related to the sewage treatment project, she said, “there’s a lot of unknowns yet.”

B.C. guidelines state that rent can be increased by an amount equal to the average annual inflation rate plus two per cent, roughly $24 for a suite costing $800 per month.

In general, Esquimalt levies CRD sewage-related charges to property owners on their annual tax bill. Other local municipalities, including Victoria and Saanich, put the charge on the utility bill.

The previously estimated $311 annual tax hit for the average household in Esquimalt, to begin covering a share of the treatment project, isn’t expected to find its way onto tax bills until 2015, Hundleby said. Victoria and Saanich began adding a charge relating to construction of the treatment plant this year, as a way to spread out the cost for taxpayers.

Hundleby hopes to encourage CRD finance reps to make a presentation to Esquimalt council soon to further explain the tax implications of the project and its related infrastructure upgrades.