Ladysmith council voted to increase the property parcel tax for water from $160 to $225, after instructing staff to come back with a figure that more closely reflected future costs at their Feb. 15 meeting.
That was when council heard the town will have to install a water filtration plant that could cost from $11 million to $14 million, if Ladysmith wants to avoid boil water notices in the future.
The $65 increase – a more than 40 per cent jump – is likely only the first in a series of parcel tax hikes that will be levied in the coming years. A chart included in a staff report recommending the increases, said hikes of $75 per year could be required between 2016 and 2020, if the town is going to keep up with the costs of providing safe, clean water. By 2020 it projects a rate of $525, a jump of 225 per cent.
Estimated revenues from the increased parcel taxes will go up from $819,000 this year to $1.9 million in 2020, the report says.
The filtration station is only one of several projects that are required to keep clean water flowing in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of a growing population. Another $5.1 million will be needed for a water supply main to connect the reservoirs at Stocking and Holland lakes.
That project is being sized to meet the needs of 18,000 people; Ladysmith’s population in 2014 was estimated at 8,273.
Other projects that will have to be budgeted include pipeline upgrades and raising water storage capacity at Holland Lake.
All told that could push the total bill into the $30 million range, covered by increased parcel taxes, Development Cost Charges and grants.
When a resident warned council during question period that taxpayers have a limit on what they can afford, Mayor Aaron Stone said he understood, but added, “This is not a choice.”
Earlier in the meeting Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback agreed, saying water filtration is needed in Ladysmith, and best practice is “to deliver at the tap what people assume they are getting – safe high quality water.”