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Stormwater cost shift tax break for rich: Fortin

Nov 06 2012

Shifting the bulk of stormwater management costs from commercial to residential properties amounts to giving the rich a tax break, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said Thursday.

"With all due respect, I'm not [U.S. Republican presidential candidate] Mitt Romney," Fortin said. "I don't think that people who make a whole lot of money should get a tax break, and that's fundamentally what we're doing."

Fortin's comments came as councillors considered the creation a new utility to manage stormwater.

Under the utility fee proposed by staff and estimated at $265 a year, the average single-family homeowner would pay $61.79 more than what they currently pay through property taxes for stormwater management.

The average multi-family residential property could expect an increase of about $215, although that would be divided by the number of units on the property.

The average civic-recreational property would see an increase of $1,182, while the average commercial-industrial property would see a decrease of $1,148.

The cost shift would largely be attributable to the fact that the commercial-industrial properties pay 3.5 times the amount of property taxes paid by residential properties, a multiplier not used in the proposed utility model.

The shift would be offset somewhat by properties statutorily exempt from property taxes - such as the legislature and Government House - that would have to pay the utility fees.

Councillors tabled consideration of the report until they are able to get an estimate of how much city-owned properties, including roads and sidewalks, should be billed to the system, with the idea that that portion - possibly 30 per cent or more - could be funded through property taxes.

Properties receiving permissive tax exemptions - such as church halls, hospitals and private schools - would also have to pay the stormwater utility fee. The plan is to phase in the full fee for these groups over a three-year period.

City staff have recommended extensive consultation with property owners prior to implementation in 2014.

Most of Victoria's stormwater system was installed prior to 1920. The estimated replacement cost is $362 million. City staff calculate that there is an annual shortfall in funding of $1.6 million to deal with the system's needs.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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