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Greater Victoria, BC News

ARTICLE

Date ArticleType
7/1/2014 Published Article
A New Rainwater Utility

Changes are coming in 2015 to property taxes that will affect all property owners in the City of Victoria. The change is coming in the form of a new stormwater utility that will completely alter the way the city charges for water services. Stormwater systems in the city are aging and require upgrade and maintenance, and the new billing model will allocate funds directly to this system. The new utility will move fees from the property tax bill to a separate utility bill and is based on a user-pay system.

The amount paid will largely be calculated on the amount of “non-permeable surface” on the property, which is surface that water cannot pass through, such as roofs, pavement or driveways. Ideally, the less runoff your property has, the less you would pay. There are proposed tax credits to accompany the utility for responsible water management, like the use of water barrels.

What will this stormwater utility look like for businesses? The City of Victoria has proposed tax credits for commercial and industrial property as well. These include cisterns, infiltration chambers, permeable paving, rain gardens, bio-swales, green roofs, and employee education.

The program claims to be “environmentally, financially, and socially sustainable,” but is it truly financially viable? While supporting sustainable rain water management is admirable, we must question the cost/benefit of implementing such programs. Will the costs outweigh the benefits? And, financially sustainable for whom? The taxpayers? Is it really practical to install these systems on their properties? How much will property taxes be reduced, if at all?

The Chamber is concerned that creating a new utility for the community will substantially increase the tax burden of residents and businesses. The unintended consequences of this seemingly good policy may have substantial negative financial implications. While we all want a sustainable, environmentally friendly vibrant community, we need to fully understand the business case for a new utility before implementation.

Bruce Carter
CEO, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
Business Examiner - July 2014

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