Metro regional fees to soar 44 per cent over five years

Hit to Metro Vancouver homeowners being driven by water, sewage and garbage costs

Metro Vancouver's Iona sewage treatment plant

Even if local city councils freeze their property tax rates, home owners across Metro Vancouver are in for years of steep increases in the regional taxes and utility fees they pay.

The typical home now pays Metro Vancouver $513 a year when the regional district’s property tax and fees for sewer, water and waste are all added up.

But that’s slated to rise to $600 by 2013 and hit $740 per home by 2016 – a 44 per cent increase over five years.

The numbers are contained in a financial projection tabled at Metro Vancouver’s finance committee Thursday.

The main culprit so far is the recently built $800-million Seymour-Capilano water filtration plant, which is now driving up water rates.

But Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who chairs the finance committee, said garbage and recycling costs are also set to climb – how high won’t be known until the provincial government decides how Metro should dispose of excess garbage and the region signs contracts with either a landfill or waste-to-energy firm.

The analysis estimates Metro’s garbage tipping fee will climb from $97 per tonne now to $153 by 2014 and $205 by 2016.

The projected increases are conservative and could come in lower than estimated, Brodie added.

The biggest bill on the horizon is the more than $1.4 billion required to rebuild the Iona and Lions Gate sewage treatment plants over the next two decades.

Brodie said Metro wants the provincial and federal governments to provide “major contributions” to those costs, particularly since the upgrades from primary to secondary sewage treatment are mandated by Ottawa.

The region is also weighing whether to adjust the formula for paying for the sewage projects.

Under the current system, much of the burden is to fall on the cities that use Iona and Lions Gate – Vancouver and the North Shore.

“Our staff are looking to see if the division of cost is reasonable and equitable,” Brodie said, calling the projected hit to those cities “very, very significant.”

Mayors say the challenging regional cost increases and inevitable hit to homeowners from Metro Vancouver underscore their argument that taxpayers are in no position to accept higher property taxes to also pay for transit upgrades, including the Evergreen Line.

They’ve agreed to a two-cent fuel tax increase for the TransLink upgrades.

A $23-per-home jump in property tax would also be needed only if they fail to agree with the province on different secondary source, such as a vehicle levy or second regional carbon tax.

Brodie and several other mayors say fees linked to transportation are more appropriate than simply charging home owners more.