December 3, 2010

SEWER COSTS SWAMP COLWOOD (sewer treatment plant)




CFAX 1070
Dec 1, 2010
(Comment to Murray:

Here we go again; one of the most expensive cities in Canada just became even more expensive. Water and garbage service will cost us more next year, roughly seven per cent. I always wrestle with these types of hikes; the main question is why is the cost going up? Is my water running any more smoothly or cleanly? Is my garbage being picked up in better or quicker fashion? The answer to all is no.

We are being told that water is costing us more because consumption is down; you bet -- you heard it right. Because we’re using less water, revenues are falling. Who better to make up the shortfall than you and I?

Tipping fees are going up at Hartland Landfill and garden waste disposal is also up. But don’t forget labour costs, which play a crucial role in any price hike.

It seems as though we’re being priced out of our own services. We can now take a few more twenty dollar bills out of out wallets and purses this year for exactly the same service this year. Doesn’t seem right, does it.

This is the reality. It will cost you more and more to live in this area whether you like it or now. What hurts the most is nothing different is coming our way. It is time to take a long, hard look at how our services are provided to us and at what cost. The endless parade to our pocketbooks has got to stop.

Oh and by the way, sewer charges went up as well. Apparently the reduction is water again is to blame. Now are you ready to consider some alternatives?


Cynthia Day (Colwood councillor)
Goldstream Gazette
2 December 2010

(Letters to editor)

Despite two failed referendums in Colwood, sewers were created for developers.

If instead of sewers you thought about building on “swampland” and need large investments to do so, no one would think that the people living on the stable land should pay for “swamp” expansion for others.

 In Royal Bay only 300 of 2,800 homes proposed have been built. In the last three years, the assessed values of undeveloped lands in Royal Bay have dropped costing all of the citizens of Colwood. There is also an adjustment needed for the shortfall in sewer taxation of about $120,000.

Looming on the horizon are many more sewer costs — sewage treatment, sewer expansion, legal costs associated with repairing or replacing the sewer bylaws and possible legal challenges related to the way the City created the sewer system 20 years ago. The costs are so high that maybe the $20,000 to $40,000 it may cost to repair or replace an aging septic system is more acceptable to homeowners. This makes the question of sewers come down to one main issue — who will pay?

 The $120,000 shortfall in the Royal Bay sewer local service area, if apportioned to the landowners in that area, will result in a one time 88 per cent sewer tax increase. The sewer oversight committee has recommended that all of the taxpayers of Colwood should pay 50 per cent of this cost ($60,000). Council will likely decide on Monday, Dec. 6.

At an estimated cost of $1,84 million (Colwood’s portion of regional sewage treatment), this would mean $240 per year to a home valued at $500,000. If you never can access sewers, you could be on the hook for treatment and expansion despite having to build and maintain your own in-ground sewage treatment.

For more information e-mail Colwood council at



Bill Cleverley
Times Colonist
December 02, 2010
(Letters to Times Colonist)

B.C. municipalities have yet to rein in their spending, which is far outstripping the pace of population growth and inflation, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says in a new report.

From 2000 to 2008, municipal operating spending in B.C. -- not including capital spending -- grew by 57.7 per cent while the population and inflation grew by 28.7 per cent, the CFIB says in its third edition of the B.C. Municipal Spending Watch.

The spending watch points to what the CFIB calls the fiscal sustainability gap, calculated by dividing percentage growth in operational spending by the percentage growth in population and inflation between 2000 and 2008.

Under the CFIB formula, a fiscal sustainability gap of one indicates that a municipality restricted the growth in spending to the benchmark of population and inflation growth.

A gap of two indicates spending increased twice as fast as population and inflation.

Of the larger cities in the capital region, Langford had a gap of 3.54, Victoria had a gap of 2.18 and Saanich 2.07.

The CFIB says if "excess" spending in 2008 had been eliminated, a family of four in Langford would have saved $1,674.

In Victoria the family would have saved $1,270 and in Saanich they would have saved $803.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said the bulk of municipal spending is for police, fire and engineering services.

"Basically, your police, fire and engineering services are the three largest departments for operating and they are all totally dependent on taxation. And I'm not seeing an appetite from anyone to cut back on police, fire or engineering services," Leonard said.

"Those that are operations but recovered through user fees -- recreation, water and sewer -- it's the same thing," he said.

"So there are choices being made to continue services even when they cost more than the rate of inflation, and those decisions are made at open meetings."

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, who also had not seen the report, said it appears to reflect downloading by senior levels of government more than anything.

"That has forced municipalities to pick up the costs. We know that the lack of action on housing and homelessness leads to ongoing costs for us around policing," he said.

The CFIB gap numbers vary wildly for smaller municipalities in the Capital Regional District.

Sooke's fiscal sustainability gap was calculated at 8.74, translating into a saving of $1,783 for a family of four if "excess" spending was eliminated.

- Colwood was 4.46 (a $1,478 saving for a family of four).

- North Saanich's gap was four (a $1,379 saving for a family of four).

- Oak Bay was 2.81 (a $1,001 saving).

- Central Saanich was 2.64 (a $929 saving).

- Esquimalt was 2.51 (a $1,162 saving).

- Sidney was 2.33 (a $859 saving).

- Metchosin was 5.07 (a $744 saving).

- View Royal was 4.61 (a $2,522 saving).

Sooke Mayor Janet Evans said she does not understand the CFIB's numbers.

"Sooke has the second-lowest taxes in the CRD," she said. "We run the whole operation with less than 30 people. We're 11 years old and we're doing capital projects and putting our community totally on contract services. We don't have a public works yard, so I don't see how they can put out that sort of information."

The CFIB makes a number of recommendations for provincial and municipal governments to try to rein in spending.

They include: limiting operational spending increases to population and inflation growth; freezing municipal wages until they are within five per cent of wages for equivalent positions in the private sector; using zero-based budgeting instead of the traditional budgeting process, which treats existing levels of spending as a given; and creating an independent municipal auditor general to oversee local government budgets and spending.


Average homeowner to pay $53 more for services in 2011
Bill Cleverley
Times Colonist
December 03, 2010
(Letters to Times Colonist)

The average Saanich homeowner will pay an extra $50 next year for sewer and water services.

Saanich councillors are expected to pass increases next week totalling $53 in increased annual charges.

Saanich's sewer utility rate is proposed to increase 13.5 per cent, about $32 for the average homeowner. That would make the average Saanich homeowner's annual sewer cost about $269.

The municipality's water utility rate is proposed to increase 5.8 per cent or about $21 for the average homeowner. That will push the average annual water bill to $396 from $375.

Municipal staff say the sewer utility increase is needed to cover increasing Capital Regional District operating costs and debt servicing costs for its liquid waste management plan; infrastructure replacement including an increase of $415,300 in the capital budget for 2011 and annual inflationary costs of about 1.5 per cent.

The water rate increase is to cover a two per cent increase in the CRD's bulk water rate; infrastructure replacement including a capital budget increase of $455,000 for next year and inflationary costs on operations totalling 1.1 per cent.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said the increases simply reflect the cost of doing business.

"We're passing on the CRD [increased costs]. Our operating [increase] is not much at all and then there's a big jump for infrastructure," Leonard said.

The only area in which the increases could be reduced would be the capital dollars earmarked for infrastructure maintenance, but that would work against the municipality's addressing its infrastructure deficit, Leonard said.

"That's where we don't want to go. We've been at this increasing infrastructure spending for 10 years so we can reach a sustainable funding level. Council has been united in this being a real priority," Leonard said.

The Saanich utility increases mirror increases for sewer, water and garbage collection approved by Victoria totalling about $50 per household.

Two organizations have released reports recently, criticizing municipalities in the province for their spending and taxation habits.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a report Thursday that said municipal spending is out of control -- running at about twice the rate of population growth and inflation.

Think City, a Vancouver-based left-wing think tank, said municipalities sometimes turn to fee increases rather than property-tax increases because they attract less attention.