By ROY WOOD
Water and sewer charges for Oliver taxpayers will likely jump by three and four per cent respectively for the 2018 tax year.
During budget talks Monday, council agreed with chief financial officer Devon Wannop’s recommendations and directed him to bring back details of the increases for council’s approval.
On Monday, Wannop said the entire three-per-cent increase in the water budget is for capital expenses. Half of the increase is to boost the water reserve capital reserve fund to “get to a place where the Town of Oliver is looking at projects over the next five years and (will) be able to put away … the amount that we take out on average.”
The other half is in preparation for the town borrowing money to pay for the replacement of the Gallagher Lake siphon section of the irrigation canal, which was damaged in by a rock slide in January 2016.
How much town taxpayers will be on the hook for – depends on whether and how much the federal government contributes to the estimated $10.5-million upgrade project.
To protect against a sudden increase down the road, Wannop’s report makes the assumption that the town will end up paying about $3.5 million, which would be borrowed and would lead to an annual debt payment of $210,000 a year for 25 years.
The 1.5-per-cent increase in 2018 through 2020 will mean, “In 2020 when we make the first payment on the debt, we will have increased enough that we would not need to increase the amount for debt again in 2021.”
For now, the town will continue in 2018 with short-term repairs to the Gallagher Lake section of the system using a $525,000 grant from the province.
The major repair to the system will get under way in 2019, when $2.5 million will be spent on preliminary work. Then, in 2020, the bulk of the work will be undertaken, including building a new siphon, running along Highway 97 and hooking back into the existing system south of Gallagher Lake. Cost is estimated at $8 million.
The province has committed $5 million.
The town hopes the federal government will pony up all or a substantial part of the difference. At a recent council meeting, chief administrative officer Cathy Cowan said, the feds “say they are looking at it.” She said the town hopes to hear something definitive within six months.
Wannop said in an interview Tuesday: “(Council) gave me instructions that once we figure out the federal (contribution) then we’ll plan our attack.”
On the sewer side, Wannop said, the four-per-cent increase would pay for “a lot of capital projects that we’re going to need to fund over the next five years.
“With our (current) sewer capital reserve we don’t have enough to cover the cost of those projects, so we need to increase the rate to fund those“ he said.
The new and continuing projects include:
- $300,000 for a solar array to provide power at the treatment plant;
- $53,500 for a sewer condition assessment;
- $25,000 for a liquid waste management plan update;
- $430,000 for the Station Street sewer main upgrades; and
- $75,000 for a new sani-dump for RVs.
For a single family residence, the increases will see the water charge, not counting usage fees, go from $405.40 to $417.50 and sewer charge from $248.10 to $258.02.
(Editor’s note – more budget meetings contemplated prior to the end of year – prior to rates being set for billings in 2018)