Victoria infrastructure ‘deficit’ less than expected

The new annual shortfall hasn’t yet been calculated, but promises to be lower, according to staff report

Despite a couple of bad-news stories of late about crumbling city infrastructure, city staff reported a “good news” outlook for council and taxpayers Tuesday.

Finance director Brenda Warner presented a balanced 20-year draft capital plan.

“Not a lot of municipalities have a 20-year capital plan,” she said. “It is a good-news story.”

The outlook has changed a bit since last year.

At that time, Warner identified an annual $10-million shortfall in the city’s ability to maintain its assets, due to years of deferring those costs.

The new annual shortfall hasn’t yet been calculated, but promises to be lower, thanks to the results of an extensive survey of the city’s underground infrastructure.

A scan by CCTV cameras revealed storm and sanitary mains previously assumed to be in poor condition turned out to be in fair condition.

“We’re finding that they’re actually in better shape than we anticipated,” said Dwayne Kalynchuk, the City of Victoria’s director of engineering and public works.

What the revelation means to the city’s estimated $500-million infrastructure deficit will be known by May.

It’s a number Warner hesitates to share.

“We don’t like to put out that number. It looks like the sky is falling,” she said. Important to note is that senior levels of government will assume a portion of this cost, through infrastructure grants.

The city is also taking steps to address its infrastructure deficit.

Every year, revenue from a 1.5 per cent property tax hike is transferred to the infrastructure reserves.

The reserve funds, however, aren’t keeping up to the need.

That’s particularly true of the buildings and infrastructure reserve fund, which sits at $23 million.

The amount falls seriously short of impending demands, including $58 million for Crystal Pool and $16.5 million for the main fire hall. In late 2011, news broke about the poor state of the both these facilities, fueling an election debate about the so-called “infrastructure crisis.”

Neither of these projects are included in the city’s 20-year capital plan, poking at least one significant hole in the good news story.

In total, $143 million worth of capital costs have been identified as “unfunded” in the $890-million plan.

 

Did you know?

Over the past year, the City of Victoria has been inspecting its underground pipes with CCTV cameras. They’ve discovered many things.

Of the city’s 255 kilometres of storm mains and 241 kilometres of sanitary mains, 11 per cent and eight per cent are in poor condition, respectively.

A sanitary main in poor condition means rain water seeps into cracks in the pipes, and it’s a problem that’s about to get more expensive.

“As we move forward with sewage treatment, it’s going to be a challenge, because we’ll be charged by the amount of volume,” said Dwayne Kalynchuk.

At a glance

In 2012, Victoria is projected to:

n contribute $10.8 million to its reserve fund, but withdraw $21.2 million from the fund.

n pay $7.8 million in debt servicing costs. By 2026, the amount is projected to decrease to $6.2 million.