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WRATH concerned about sewer figures [and tax increases for everyone as presented in the new Sooke Budget on March 20, 2001]
By Bryan Drielich in Sooke News Mirror, March 21, 2001
Several Sooke residents were shocked to find out last week that an early estimate shows the cost per property located within the proposed sewer system area to be $629.
That figure was used in the District of Sookeís Canada-British Columbia Infrastructure Program grant application which was sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs March 15.
The $629 figure was calculated based on an average property (including both residential and commercial) value in Sooke.
The estimate of $629 per property will cover the districtís one-third of the cost ($7,840,000) of the $23.9 million project. The District applied for an infrastructure grant which would cover the other two thirds of the project cost.
"Six hundred dollars is outrageous," said George Butcher, spokesperson for Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes (WRATH).
He said itís even more disturbing that council was not open about the estimate until the application was mailed.
But Mayor Ed Macgregor said it was inappropriate to consider the average number, because each individual property will differ in price.
"Iím reluctant to use an average number because itís misleading. Individual properties will range," he said.
Macgregor said it will take a couple of months before consultants can determine the true allocation costs for each property. At that time people will have the choice of whether to choose to oppose the project or stand behind it by staying silent.
According to the application, the properties within the limits of the new sewer system cover about 45 per cent of all properties within the District of Sooke (1,529 of 3,400 properties.)
In terms of breaking down the components of the project, land acquisition covers $400,000 of the overall price, $18 million is designated for construction and manufacturing, $3.6 million is slated for professional fees, and $1.8 million goes towards interest.
Glen Dickie, a WRATH member who lives within the area of the proposed sewer system, said he found the estimated price a huge concern.
"Itís amazing. Thatís very scary. I was given no estimates at the [Sewer Study Open House March 14,]" he said.
Sooke municipal planner Frank Limshue said the estimate is deceptive.
"Some [properties] are larger, some are smaller. The trick is at the end of the day to make it equitable for the majority of people," he said.
According to the districtís timeline in its grant application, it hopes to have the council initiative process complete by July 2001, and for the operation to begin by December 2004.
"Itís all based on getting the funds fairly quickly," Limshue said. "If the funding doesnít come for another year, the timeline goes back a year."
Macgregor told the News Mirror that if no grant comes, the district will not push ahead with the project.
"I donít believe the taxpayers could do it without the provincial grant," he said. Without an infrastructure grant the district would be burdened with the total cost of the project, increasing the average cost to $1,822.
- The general budget presented by Tom Day included a significant tax hike across the board for every resident in Sooke, because the consultant on the Incorporation Study underestimated and miscategorized costs. Furthermore, Ed McGregor, who chaired the incorporation committee, missed these errors as well and we will now have to foot the bill. Some councillors recommeded cutting back on essential services. Email us to find out who wants to cut what! Tom Day suggested that we should have more taxes. They also had all the tax figures for all of the neighbouring municipalities on hand. Funny, they couldn't get this information from a single one municipality for a cost comparison to hook up to the new sewer system.
- So, if history repeats itself, it is probable that we will see a repeat of miscalculations and incorrect budgets in the upcoming Sewer System Project, with Ed McGregor as Mayor. So, what has changed? This time he has $24 million tax dollars to err with.
More articles to come. If you know of a relevant article, please contact WRATH and we will post it on this website.