The city is unfairly raising water rates in Area D by 100 per cent without any explanation for the charges, says Area D director Brenda Leigh.
Leigh said at Wednesday’s Strathcona Regional District board meeting that the city is imposing taxation without representation upon Area D residents who live just south of the city limits.
“Area D is currently subject to an unfair system where our taxpayers are not represented on any water committee, we are not told what we are being asked to pay for, except that the proposed increases are city policy,” Leigh said in a report to the board.
“This is taxation without representation..this is the anti-thesis of democracy. This is unfair.”
The City of Campbell River currently charges water rates of $0.40 per cubic metre but may increase the rate to $0.80 pending the results of negotiations between the Strathcona Regional District and the City of Campbell River.
Water rates have been in dispute between the two parties for the past 18 months and talks are expected to continue for the next few months.
Campbell River city councillors who sit on the regional district board as directors said Wednesday it would be prudent for the regional district to allocate $270,000 in the 2013 budget in order to pay the figure that is eventually settled on.
“It’s irresponsible for this board to not have money in this budget to pay this bill, anything else is just…pardon the pun, muddying the waters,” Director Ron Kerr said.
But Leigh did not want to add the extra $270,000 and instead keep water rates for Area D at 2012 levels.
“I feel it’s irresponsible for Campbell River to increase our rates 100 per cent and not give our CAO (Chief Administrative Officer), our board, or myself any reason for the increase,” Leigh said.
“If this is allowed, then what’s to stop them from raising rates 100 per cent next year and the next. Where does it stop? Campbell River needs to start playing fair ball because Area D residents are not impressed with what’s going on.”
Director Claire Moglove said the rate increase cannot “possibly be taxation without representation” as the rate hike is part of the existing contract.
“This is a contract negotiation based on rates,” Moglove said. “It was the Strathcona Regional District that came to the City of Campbell River and said we would like the old contract terms and conditions to continue. That contract said user rate fees (of $0.80 per cubic metre) will be charged.”
Mayor Walter Jakeway, also a director on the regional board, said no one is trying “to stick it” to Area D and that water rates are higher outside the city limits because electoral areas don’t pay Development Cost Charges on their properties like property owners within the city do.
Jakeway said there was no point in arguing the fees because in the end, the city is providing a service and will get its money in return.
“If Campbell River sends an invoice to Area D at $0.80 per cubic metre, Campbell River gets its money regardless,” Jakeway said. “It may not seem fair but the big dog gets its money. If you want to have a budget that’s short at the end of the year, then follow the current arrangement.”
Brian Reardon, chief administrative officer, of the Strathcona Regional District, warned directors that not putting the money in the budget could result in the regional district passing a budget with a deficit, which is forbidden by the province.
That would likely cause the 2012 budget to take effect and the province would be forced to intervene.
Reardon said the bottom line is “the bills have to be paid.”
Municipal directors agreed and voted to keep the $270,000 in the budget for Area D water.
Directors Leigh, Gerald Whalley, and Jude Schooner were opposed.
Whalley said he did not like “big dog politics” and thought increasing water rates in Area D “by 100 per cent arbitrarily was unfair to users.”
Leigh, who wanted the vote recorded, said she also wanted “Area D’s strong objection to Campbell River’s interference” recorded, before the board declared a point of order and cut Leigh off.
Directors also voted to increase the requisition in Area D by $270,000 which will split the increase between taxation and user fees.
Leigh said her reasoning in doing so was so residents won’t see as big an increase in their utility bills, which residents must pay on time, whereas taxes can be deferred if necessary.