Yet again, the word infrastructure came up at council, and rightly so.
The councillors and the mayor all have said at one point or another that infrastructure should be the number one concern. They’re not wrong. Water and sewer lines are a big part of the failing infrastructure in desperate need of replacing. Taxes are intended as one way to improve the city and its infrastructure.
Nobody likes seeing taxes go up, and yet everybody finds it easy to criticize the poor state of our infrastructure. We live in this city. We have to be willing to pay our dues to help make the city better. That is, after all, what taxes are intended for, which is why council needs to find and execute a good plan to maximize monetary allocations to fix infrastructure.
Council defeated Coun. Brian Swanson’s motion during Monday’s regular meeting to rescind the nine per cent rate increased to take effect Jan. 1, 2013. Swanson had said the taxpayers deserve a break after having a 67.2 per cent water rate increase over six years and a 91.5 per cent sewer rate increase over the same time frame.
The reality is our infrastructure is deteriorating fast. Council needs to stop talking about the infrastructure needs and do something about it. A water and sewer increase is a good start, but it won’t be nearly enough to deal with the mounting issues.
The situation is so bad that the city allocated $30.84 million for the water utility reserve and $12.05 million for the sanitary sewage utility over a period of five years from 2012 to 2016. That’s not including the water and sewer deficit in the 10-year unfunded capital budget.
When you start thinking about how much more money the city needs to fix the infrastructure, a nine per cent tax increase in water and sewage rates doesn’t seem like enough.
It seems the infrastructure is breaking down so fast that massive rate hikes for the taxpayer aren’t enough and more increases are needed. It is clear taxpayers can’t be the only source of revenue for fixing that infrastructure.
But the city manager previously said there likely wouldn’t be any new provincial or federal grants in 2013. The infrastructure can’t wait until 2014 to continue to get fixed.
There has to be more revenue and the taxpayers are going to have to pay for part of it. Nine per cent is a meager increase considering the state of our infrastructure. Hopefully the money can be used accordingly to help repair the water and sewer lines in the city.