Rates to change for French Creek wastewater sewage plant users

A 20 per cent sewer rate increase is proposed over time

At a Sept. 5 regular Parksville city council meeting, a major change to the sanitary sewer rates was approved relating to the French Creek wastewater treatment plant charges.

This will particularly impact commercial and residential stratas and apartment buildings that pay the sewage fees on behalf of their residents or tenants.

The French Creek wastewater treatment plant (RDNWW) costs are billed to the City of Parksville from the Regional District of Nanimo (RDN), and in the past, the full charge from the RDN were included as part of the property tax bill. According to Lucky Butterworth, director of finance for the City of Parksville, these costs totalled $2,545,000 in 2018.

Current sewer rates have a fixed charge for the first 100 cubic metres of sewage disposal. According to Butterworth, many households and a few businesses are under that threshold but are paying the same as someone disposing of 100 cubic meters.

“Property taxpayers are currently funding the French Creek sewage treatment plant rather than the actual purveyors to the treatment plant,” Butterworth said at the meeting. “The costs from the plant are billed to the city from the RDN (totalling $2.545M). Staff believe it would be more appropriate if these costs be paid by the sewer rate payers rather than the property taxpayers.”

In a Sept. 12 handout, Butterworth said the RDN calculates the city’s share of the RDNWW plant based on the wastewater flows from the city compared to other users of the plant (Qualicum Beach, French Creek, Nanoose, etc). Therefore it is more appropriate for those costs to be borne by the users of the system rather than property taxpayers (property taxpayers pay based on their property assessment rather than their wastewater flows into the RDNWW plant).

Over a 10-year period, the costs of the treatment plant will be moved to the sanitary sewer fund so the total sewer costs will be billed on the utility bill instead of part billed on the utility bill and the RDNWW plant portion on the property tax bill.

For 2019, this will require a 20 per cent increase in the sewer rates on utility bills starting with the April to September 2019 billing. The increase will be offset by an approximate 10 per cent reduction to the RDNWW amount on one’s property tax bill. For the average residential property, these two amounts will be close to equal.

Butterworth said if you are a strata, apartment building owner, commercial operator, or anyone else paying the utility bills on behalf of tenants or strata owners you will be impacted by this and should factor in this 20 per cent rate increase into your tenant/strata charges after April 1, 2019.

There is also a three per cent inflationary increase in the sewer rates effective for the Oct. 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 billing period.

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