Water tax lifted after debt cleared

Taxpayers in Walters Cove will no longer have to pay the Strathcona Regional District’s water tax after it was repealed last week.

The regional district’s board of directors removed the parcel tax at last week’s board meeting because the loan, which the tax had been going towards, has been paid off.

The $14,276.20 debt was incurred in 2002 in order to establish a reservoir and was to be paid back in 20 years. However, in May, regional district staff announced that it had built up enough funds to pay off the debt six years early.

Dawn Christenson, the regional district’s finance manager, said the move would save $3,000 in interest charges and “allow the regional district to cease further property taxation for the service.”

The tax was established to fund a lump sum contribution to the Kyuquot/Checleset First Nation for an expansion of the water system and to finance part of an $18,000 contribution that was not prepaid by property owners in Walters Cove.

The regional district caught a break, however, when a mid-term financing opportunity allowed the regional district to restructure its payback program and pay off the debt early.

“With this in mind, parcel tax amounts were adjusted upward in 2012 in order to raise enough funds to retire the debt in 2016,” Christenson said. “In June of this year, the remaining debt principal was repaid and the debt was cancelled.”

That opened the door for the regional district’s board of directors to repeal the parcel tax last week.

The move means Walters Cove property owners will no longer have to make a contribution to the parcel tax, effective for the 2017 tax year.

Christenson said that historically, property owners were paying either $56.95 or $7.29 annually, depending on whether they chose to finance their share of the service over time or through a lump sum up front.

A referendum was held on June 27, 1998 to obtain support for taking on the debt, with 39 per cent of eligible Walters Cove voters casting a ballot.

A total of 24 people voted in favour while zero were opposed.

Walters Cove is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

It is best known for the Walters Cove Resort fishing lodge in Kyuquot which is accessible by either boat or floatplane via Fair Harbour, northwest of Campbell River.