Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson says right now it is done in two different ways, one is through a frontage or parcel tax, and the other is through the utilities fee itself.
Council is now talking about eliminating the frontage or parcel tax portion of the bill…
“Right now if you have a very large lot and you are beside a neighbour who for whatever reason has a smaller lot, and there are only two people living in both of those houses drawing about the same water from the system and producing the same kind of waste water, the one with the large lot pays more to that system just because they have a large lot.”
Simpson says people with empty lots, that aren’t even using any water or sewer, also have to pay right now.
He says they may go to one utility fee instead to make it a little more equitable.
Simpson says the plan is to come up with a formula where people would basically be paying about the same…
“The amount of money we have to raise as a city for water and sewer doesn’t change, so effectively we’re not raising taxes overall at all.”
Simpson says the only true way to have equity is by water metering, which is something else that Council is exploring…
“We’re as a Council looking at pretty significant investments into our water system such as a potential new well, a potential new water main trunk. Those kinds of investments you really need to ask the question of, if we had a more deliberate conservation strategy could we avoid those large capital costs ? That’s a question that Council needs to address, but in order to drive true water conservation, a true user fee approach to water, you have to look at water metering, so at this point it is simply a dialogue of where does water metering fit ?”
Simpson says you could stage it and just meter the heavy users first before you go to residential, but he says there is a lot of dialogue that has to take place before they make any decisions on water metering.
For now, he says they will keep things the same for most Quesnel residents in 2020, to give Council more time to go over the various options.
One change that will happen next year though is that Southhills residents, who were paying off the capital costs of the water system that was put in place when they were incorporated into the city, will at least temporarily switch to a frontage tax system, once that debt is paid off.