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Victoria homes and businesses face utility fee rises

Dec 14 2011

Victoria property owners will pay more for everything from water to garbage pickup next year.

At a special council meeting Tuesday, councillors approved a series of utility increases that will total about $50 a year for the average residential property owner and about $1,000 to the average commercial property owner.

Mayor Dean Fortin said Tuesday night that most of the increases flow through from the Capital Regional District.

Included in the increases is residential garbage collection, which will go up 3.9 per cent to $202.92 per single family dwelling from the current rate of $195.12.

Councillors also approved a 10 per cent increase in the sewer fees, which city staff say is necessary to pay for deferred maintenance on an aging system and to build up reserves. The increase is estimated to be equivalent to an additional $16 a year to the average residential user and about $384 a year to the typical commercial user.

"We recognize that we have aging infrastructure and part of the cost associated with sewer charges is to replace the aging pipes," Fortin said. "We're trying to deal with an infrastructure gap around sewage."

Councillors agreed to increase the water consumption fee by nine per cent. The increase will mean about $26 a year for the average homeowner and about $624 annually for the typical commercial user.

Part of the reason for the increase is an estimated increase in the wholesale water rate from the Capital Regional District of three per cent.

City engineering staff say the increase will allow them to attack the water infrastructure deficit. The need for additional revenue is exacerbated because people are using less water.

"We're using less water, which is a great conservation ethic, but the cost of water, the entire system from the dam to pipes, is the same," Fortin said.

"To pay for the operating costs when less people are using water, you have to charge more for the water you're using."

A staff report noted that, over the past decade, total volume of water consumed in Victoria has decreased by about 20 per cent.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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