Village to raise utility tax rates

Photo: Jasper The sewage processing plant, near Cranberry Marsh.
Photo: Evan Matthews
The sewage processing plant, near Cranberry Marsh.

by EVAN MATTHEWS

The Village of Valemount’s administration has already started work on its 2017 budget, and for the taxpayer, it means an increase to utility tax rates.

The Village is opting to raise the annual utility tax rate by 9.5 per cent on water and sewer services in order to replenish the reserve accounts in case of emergency, according to Valemount’s Mayor, Jeannette Townsend.

The annual rate will increase the residential rate by 9.5 per cent for the first nine years — equating to a average annual dollar increase of $28, or $2.34 per month — and then 3 per cent per year for every year following.

This utility tax raise does not include the annual 2.5 per cent raise on garbage pick-up services.

With the Village having such a small population, the Mayor says all it would take is for one minor thing to break and there isn’t much money in the reserves to fix whatever has happened, pointing to McBride’s current deficit, which was attributed to the lagoon road washout.

“It broke them. It really whacked them,” says Townsend. “Every municipality in Canada is having to go through the same thing right now.”

The Village is offering a eight per cent rate discount for full payment of the taxpayer’s annual rate before Mar. 10.

The current water and sewage concerns the Village is planning proactively for, described to council by Chief Financial Officer, Lori McNee, include the deterioration of the water and sewer infrastructure (which is roughly 40-years-old), new provincial water testing reporting requirements, new standards and codes for tradespeople, worker’s certification and operating cost.

“Salaries go up, wages go up, supplies for the water and sewer plants cost money,” says Townsend. “This is without anything even going wrong.”

But some may ask, why do we need reserve funding at all, and why can’t the Village just apply for grants when necessary?

Even if the Village successfully applies for grants, there is still a minimum of 25 to 33 per cent of a minimum payment from municipalities on these types of upgrades, according to McNee.

Previously, infrastructure was not a priority of most municipalities, she says, calling it a “norm of the day”, and therefore a fair bit of maintenance will soon be needed to bring infrastructure to standard.

However, despite the coming increase, Townsend says Valemount’s utility tax rates are lower than the average in Canada.

Through the reserve accounts and consistent maintenance, the mayor says Valemount has managed to maintain its low rates. This increase, she says, is to rebuild the reserves and to be ready for the next emergency.

“My mother told me I’m a politician and I should know better than to raise taxes,” says Townsend, laughing a bit, but noting the tax increase is no different than ones own home.
If you notice a kitchen appliance start to operate in a funny way or make a strange sound, you begin to plan for the first, Townsend says.

“It’s no different with the Village, and it’s what’s happening now.”

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