Saturday, July 16, 2011

Water Rates and Levy Guest Editorial

I would like to bring some information to everyone that may not have attended the water meeting. I was unable to go, but I had the opportunity to sit down with Nyla the following day to go over the presentation. Thank you Nyla for the time and dedication you are putting forward on behalf of the community.
The presentation offered a number of options in regards to a proposed tax levy for water infrastructure. The district and council are leaning towards an option, not based on consumption, but based on our property tax assessment. I am having a very hard time accepting how the district and council propose this as a fair levy distribution for a service that has a cost based on use.

Currently our utility services are based on a charge for consumption. The cost of the service lies primarily on the responsibility of the homeowner to conserve water. I understand that the tax levy for infrastructure to provide all Tofino residents with water. How then is the distribution of this levy fair to those who have seen dramatic increases in their property assessments over the last 5 years?
Nyla was kind enough to provide an example based on my usage. I have provided the following scenarios below:

Using my current water usage the cost is as follows:

current usage $160.50 for the year of 2010 (yes I live in my house full time)
proposed levy, based on my assessment my water bill is now $467.67 an increase of $307.17

Scenario 2: a full time resident with a $500,000 home with the same usage as my household:
current bill: $160.50
proposed levy bill based on the assessment $220.60 for a total increase of $60.10

Scenario 3: full time resident with a $500,000 home with 4 times the use as my household (I was told this would be a typical usage)
current bill $600.00
proposed levy bill based on the assessment $220.60 for a total reduction of ($379.40)

Scenario 4: non full time beach front resident with a home valued at $2,500,000 with the same usage as my household:
current bill: $160.50
proposed levy bill based on the assessed value $1103 for an increase of $942.50

The result is, however conscious or unconscious I am of water usage, my water bill increases by an additional $307.17. These dramatic increases are to those who are conservative with their water consumption or simply do not live in a large household with the large water useage. Is this fair?
I understand that a levy is necessary to improve the current infrastructure for our water system however that levy should be equally distributed among homeowners and businesses. When asked why this option presents a good choice for council and the district, the explanation was the low users of water are not paying enough into the infrastructure because they are not consuming enough water. The argument is that the big houses sit empty and do not consume enough. The annual tax bill of those large homes contribute a lot of money to Tofino's tax base and they do not use anything in this community in terms of services, they do the opposite, they actually spend more money, by eating out and shopping and paying their taxes. A tax levy based on property values is not something I will support , if water usage is based on assessments and not usage there is no incentive to consume less, water is a finite resource and we all have to take resonsility for it EQUALLY. A base rate levy with a consumption (for additional use above the base rate) is the only fair way to tax anyone, as it distributes the burden to everybody equally, no one is paying more or less than what they use.

Whatever the value of these homes are, and whatever their consumption is, the council should not be unfairly distributing a utility levy to those who don't consume and giving those who do consume a break. I am not against paying more for infrastructure, as it has to happen in some form, but in a fair and equal dollar value.

Tammy Shymko

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