Quadra sewer rates may be on the rise

Strathcona Regional District staff say sewer rates on Quadra Island need to increase but directors want other options

Strathcona Regional District staff say sewer rates on Quadra Island need to increase by 10.8 per cent to help pay for the system. Directors, however, want other options.

Dave Leitch, regional district CAO, said residential basic rates should increase by $55, from $510 to $565 “in order to meet cost recovery targets identified in the 2016-2020 financial plan.”

Leitch said that increase is considered for 2016 only, as future rate increases will partly be determined by the sewer extension project that is planned within the next few years.

The Quathiaski Cove sewer service was created by the regional district in 1994 after residents petitioned for the service.

Since 1999 basic residential rates have soared from $250 to $510 in 2015.

In 2012, rates were as high as $692 at which point a group of sewer users went to the regional district to express their frustration and present a petition.

Regional district staff Dawn Christenson, financial services manager, and Patti Wells, operational engineer, wrote in a joint report that the sewer system has reached a point where it requires “continuous investment in remedial and preventative measures to comply with the conditions of its operating permit.”

It’s expected, however, that once the sewer service is expanded to include 38 additional properties that those new users will share in the cost of operating and maintaining the system through user fees.

But Wells and Christenson say there are still challenges.

“A fulsome asset management plan has not yet been completed for this service; therefore it is not known whether the current level of contribution to capital reserves will be sufficient to ensure continued service delivery at the expected level,” the pair wrote. “This service has insufficient operational reserves to offset unanticipated future costs or to phase-in rate adjustments. At the end of 2015, total appropriated surplus was $981. Additionally, the financial plan predicted a $12,000 surplus for 2016; however the actual surplus was $9,872, creating the need to cut operational costs back by $2,128 in order to avoid a deficit in the current year.”

Wells and Christenson said in the short term, a financial deficit could be avoided by increasing the sewer user fees.

However, at last week’s Electoral Area Services Committee meeting between the four electoral directors, the group was hesitant to go with the 10.8 per cent rate hike. Instead, staff was asked to come back with other options and report back at the Sept. 21 electoral directors’ meeting.