– Future regional service could eat 20% of household incomes: Metro Vancouver

North Shore Outlook

By Rebecca Aldous

In 20 years, North Shore property owners could face $12,000 bills for regional services, says Metro Vancouver’s chief financial officer.

The region faces significant infrastructure costs, including sewage upgrades to secondary treatment and additional garbage management operations, Jim Rusnak told West Vancouver council Monday night.

As a result, costs associated with running and upgrading Metro Vancouver, member municipalities and TransLink services could rise from $4.9 billion to $14.6 billion annually.

Based on a regional average $600,000 property assessment, this would bump last year’s $5,628 cost per household to $12,051 in 2030 — or 13.2 per cent of a household’s income, Rusnak said. If household incomes trail inflation, the percentage cut could jump to 20 per cent, he warns.

The dramatic increase largely depends on whether federal and provincial governments pour money into Metro Vancouver’s projects.

“A critical issue is liquid waste costs,” Rusnak noted.

With both levels of government working on mandating secondary sewage treatment in cities, the North Shore’s Lions Gate facility will need an estimated $400 million worth of upgrades. Metro Vancouver and the three North Shore municipalities are crossing their fingers that the province and federal government will each pitch in a third of the costs.

By 2020, West Vancouver will be spending $17 million on Metro Vancouver managed and TransLink services, which is twice as much as Delta — a municipality with three times West Van’s population, the district’s chief administrative officer Grant McRadu said.

The regional population base is growing and with it the demands for services, but the current financing sources, in particular property taxes, may not be able to keep up with funding requirements, McRadu said.

West Van and Metro Vancouver have decided to examine different cost sharing models to address such issues, he said. The final report should be complete for the 2011 budget.

“This I think is going to be a leading light [for many municipalities],” McRadu said.

A new formula is required, Coun. Michael Lewis said.

“When you end up at a 20 per cent [cut] from household incomes [paying for services] we are basically being taxed out of our homes,” he said.

The estimated future costs for the municipalities are crippling, Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones agreed. An alternative to rating services fees on property assessments is needed, she said, noting the average property assessment in West Van is $1.4 million.

“Property values are not a reflection of ability to pay in many cases,” she said.

raldous@northshoreoutlook.com

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