Colwood sewer users are paying for stuff that has nothing to do with the operations of sewers.
The sewer user billing comes out an accounting creature called the sewer operating fund. This is an accounting black hole of smoke and mirrors. Last year the budget of this fund changed each of the four times this fund was presented to council. One time it increased by $334,000 and no one on council questioned these changes.
This fund actually accounts for four distinct areas. They are: Accounting for sewer debt principle and interest tax and payments, CRD sewer tax collection (septic tank tax), Bylaw 1001 Revenue (new users connecting to sewers) and sewer operation. The City says the overall fund is self-balancing. This is wrong. Each of these areas must be self-balancing. I could write a page on this fund.
Now let’s get specific as to what extra expenses Colwood sewer users paying.
They are legal costs, excessive staff time, bad debts and excessive computer processing costs. These made up 52 per cent of the total 2010 sewer operation expenses. This year is on target for the same percentages.
The City takes the position that the sewer users should pay for the legal costs. Their rational is that the legal problems are caused by and because of the sewer users. If we are to accept this then the Triangle Mountain properties should be charged for the tens of thousands of dollars spent by the city on the transmission towers problems. These costs have been paid by all Colwood property owners.
The City says it has legal opinion that it can charge these fees to the sewer users. The City actions based on past legal advice has resulted in the City losing all sewer legal challenges. I do not believe this advice is sound.
I have the opinion of a retired Judge and he says the City cannot target specific property owners with legal charges. My problem is I do not have the money to challenge the City.
In 2010 the City was challenged and found guilty of committing several illegal activities in the Tranquillity local sewer initiative. These legal activities cost the City $190,805 plus significant staff time. These costs were charged to the sewer users. None of the illegal activities were committed by any sewer user.
Likewise in 2011 significant legal costs ($122,550 at last release) have been expended and significant City staff time expended on the new sewer bylaws recently passed and on negotiations with the Upstream Users Group.
These costs are being charged to only the current sewer users. At least 85 per cent of the potential sewer users in Colwood do not yet exist. The homes have not yet been built. These new bylaws are for the benefit of this 85 per cent, but they will not pay these costs. Is this fair?
No current council member has taken the time to understand or question this absurd inequity.