Homeowners in Oak Bay were likely less than surprised when they received their property tax notices last week.
The 3.42-per-cent rise in municipal tax rates for 2013 equated to an average $90 increase per property, in line with the 3.44-per-cent increase seen in 2012.
While nearly every jurisdiction across Greater Victoria experienced a two- to six-per-cent decrease in assessed property value from B.C. Assessment in January, Oak Bay was one of just two areas where property owners saw a modest increase. Values grew by 0.78 per cent over 2012, on average. (Property values in Langford rose by 0.47 per cent.)
“Council worked very hard to ensure that any increases were justified,” Mayor Nils Jensen said. “We certainly tried to be responsible in finding a budget that balanced the need to continue to provide the appropriate services with the need to be fiscally responsible.”
Oak Bay’s share of the bill for the regional sewage treatment plant in the works accounted for roughly two-thirds of the tax increase. It will likely fuel the same increase annually for the next four or five years, to total approximately $300 to $400.
“That’s what we expect, but as the contracts are let and we get a better understanding of the costs of construction, those figures may change,” Jensen said.
Water rates are also on the rise in Oak Bay. Earlier this spring council passed a bylaw to raise sewage fees an estimated 25 per cent over 2012, a move also associated with covering the costs of the sewage treatment facility.
The 2013 consumption rates are $2.167 per unit, compared to $1.961 in 2012, in addition to a basic charge of $157.39 per year. The 2013 municipal sewer user rate is now $1.2227 per unit, up from $1.0189 in 2012. The Capital Regional District Debt sewer Debt costs, used to service debt incurred after 2006 for Oak bay sewer work, is now $.9796 per unit. The 2012 rate for CRD debt was $0.7653. The fixed daily charge of $0.43 remained the same as in 2012.
Coun. John Herbert, chairman of public works and finance committees has spoken out against including the sewer costs in the water rate hike.
It hides sewage treatment costs from taxpayers, he said, noting the increase is only clear if residents analyze their water bills.
It also introduces uncertainty around the collection of funds needed by the municipality, said Herbert. He also has questions around homes with two meters and whether or not the Capital Regional District should be encouraging residents to use less water, when he believes it is not in short supply.
Property taxes are due July 2. Oak Bay collects approximately $28 million annually from 6,700 properties, with about $14 million collected on behalf of other government agencies including the province of British Columbia (school taxes), the Capital Regional District and the Capital Regional Hospital District.
The remaining $14 million funds municipal services for Oak Bay residents.