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Delta residents to open wallets even wider for utilities

Metro hoping development will pay its fair share for projects to accommodate growth
annacis island wastewater treatment plant, delta bc
The regional district is having a new pipe system installed at the Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. It is expected to meet the region’s growth needs for the next 100 years while ensuring greater seismic resilience and continuous, reliable and safe management of liquid waste.

Delta residents should be prepared for even bigger increases in their utility bills.

Council earlier this year approved an increase to the 2021 flat rate utility bill by a total of $27, or 2.4 per cent, from $1,130 for a single-family home in 2020 to $1,157 in 2021.

Those increases are mainly attributed to rising Metro Vancouver costs.

The 2021 Metro Vancouver regional water and sewer costs increased by 4.7 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively, resulting in a $22 increase to the regional portion of the flat rate utility bill.

The additional $5 increase covers Delta costs.

According to the city’s engineering department, Metro’s projected rate increases for water is 5.2 per cent in 2022, 6.4 per cent in 2023, 8.9 per cent in 2024 and 10.8 per cent in 2025.

Metro’s projected rate increase for the Fraser Sewage Area Levy is 9.4 per cent for 2022, 12.8 per cent for 2023, 12.3 per cent in 2024 and 18.5 per cent in 2025.

Metro Vancouver officials made a presentation at Delta council several weeks ago to explain various regional utility initiatives, offering assurances residents are getting good value for their money.

The April 26 presentation came about following council raising concerns about the steadily rising water and sewage rates, promoting a request for more information.

Jerry Dobrovolny, CAO of Metro Vancouver, and Dean Rear, CFO/GM of Financial Services, explained Metro’s water and sewer infrastructure improvement projects planned or are underway, noting the region is guided by a series of high level strategic plans approved by the Metro board.

The board wanted even more input during the budgeting process and also conveyed a desire for short-term relief for households to reduce costs, said Dobrovolny, adding a fundamental part of the budget process is finding savings where available.

He noted $400 million in capital projects were deferred last year and more savings will be sought this year.

However, there’s also been a “bunching up” of various projects that have been previously delayed and need to get underway.

Driving costs is increased population growth in the region as well as a need to upgrade aging infrastructure including seismic improvements.

Dobrovolny noted a major challenge is that Metro can’t apply development cost charges and Metro is “desperately hoping” the province will approve it for the water utility this year.

Current property owners are having to subsidize all the new regional growth, he added.

“We know there’s strong support in the region for growth to pay for the growth,” he said.

Coun. Lois Jackson expressed concern about what Delta taxpayers face.

“It is really quite a shock when I realize today the average household impact is $577 and it will rise in 2025 to $789. It’s quite a hit, despite the fact that you’re showing the comparable to other regions. People don’t understand that…in the meantime people still have to find this extra money and are wondering why,” she said.

Jackson also wondered how the region can deal with the rapid growth which could force people already living here to move away because it’s simply too expensive.

Dobrovolny, noting the region is projecting growth of an average growth of about 35,000 residents until 2050, said the challenge will always be how to pay for that growth without impacting people’s quality of life.

He said the region is seen as a highly desirable place to live around the world, so it’s important for new development to pay for itself, especially with a water development cost charge.

“Our existing residents are subsidizing about 40 per cent of our capital because it’s driven by growth and we’ve got no mechanism to pass on those costs,” he said.

Dobrovolny also suggested a development cost charge from development would be useful to fund new park acquisitions.

During council’s discussion, Coun. Bruce McDonald, who sits on the regional district’s liquid waste committee, said another way to look at current costs is that the average Metro home pays $1.58 a day for services and by 2025 that will go up to around $1.90 a day.

“I know that the overall costs are just paramount in everyone’s mind, but the problem we have in the Vancouver area is that people want to live here, and I look at my costs for insurance and taxes and all the rest, and they’re not trivial, but, in the last assessment authority numbers on paper I made $400 a day by living here and that’s absurd,” said McDonald.