Capital Regional District board approves early start to sewage tax

Having taxpayers begin paying for project this year will save an estimated $3 million in debt servicing costs

Chart shows estimated taxpayers' costs year-over-year for sewage treatment program.

Greater Victoria homeowners will begin paying for sewage treatment this year, now that Capital Regional District directors have approved the 2013 budget for the $783-million project.

The average household will see an increase of $39 in Saanich, $59 in Victoria and $65 in Oak Bay at the end of the year, according to a CRD report.

“What this does is smooth out some of the (financial) ramp-up on taxpayers and provides kind of a fiscal planning for them, and I think that’s a positive,” said Saanich Coun. Vic Derman.

The decision to levy fees now will also save the CRD $3 million in debt servicing costs. The project is expected to cost homeowners between $232 and $353 annually by 2018.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who along with Derman and Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton opposed approval of the overall sewage budget, said the CRD should wait another month until a panel of experts has been put in place to oversee the project.

“I think having our expert commission view these numbers would be much more helpful in sussing this out further,” Desjardins told the board. “This was supposed to be part of a process whereby we had a commission in place.”

The appointed commission will run the project and will exclude elected officials, a condition of provincial funding. But CRD directors will still have the final say over budgets and major project amendments.

More than $47 million will be spent in 2013 to tender design contracts for facilities at the McLoughlin Point wastewater treatment plant, for construction work on the Craigflower pump station and for further requests for proposals.

In addition to the wastewater treatment plant planned for Esquimalt, a network of new sewage pipes and a biosolids energy centre will be built to meet the federal government’s compliance deadline of 2020.

The provincial and federal governments are contributing up to $501 million for the project, while any cost overruns will fall on CRD taxpayers.

dpalmer@vicnews.com