South Lakeside water and sewer parcel tax is on the agenda for the Williams Lake City Council meeting Tuesday, July 14. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

City overcharged South Lakeside residents on water and sewer tax, says Judy Albin

City staff are seeking direction from city council on how to proceed at Tuesday meeting

City of Williams Lake staff is looking for direction from city council on how to proceed with a discrepancy on water and sewer parcel taxes collected from South Lakeside residents this year.

The topic, which has to do with water and sewer services and the 20-year payment plan, is on the agenda for the Tuesday (July 14) evening city council meeting slated to start at 6 p.m. at Williams Lake City Hall.

A longtime South Lakeside resident, former city councillor and former school board trustee, Judy Albin brought the issue to city hall last month and will be at the meeting to hear how the City will proceed with what they are calling a complicated issue.

Albin said South Lakeside residents were bound to make 20 payments over the course of 20 years for city water and sewer services when the City brought the area into the city limits and provided the much-needed services. Those payments were $471.92 per year between 2000 and 2019, or one lump sum.

She maintains residents paid the full amount last year.

However, the City collected additional water and sewer parcel tax for 2020 for the residents because there was still money owing on the $8.6 million project. When implemented, the project was cost shared between the Province, the City and the residents at 53 per cent, 30 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.

“The bylaws that specifically established the resident’s share of the project costs (and accompanying parcel taxes) underwent three sets of changes between 1999 and 2001, two of which occurred after the loan was established, and included extending periods to fully commute property owner payments andexcluding non-developable properties from the tax. These changes may have contributed to the discrepancy in what was collected versus the actual debt costs,” noted chief financial officer Vitali Kozubenko in his report to city council.

Kozubenko further noted as of 2019 the City paid $1,588,133.42 to repay the loans and interest, the residents contributed $1,531,556.33, with $26,577.09 still owing.

City staff are proposing three options for council to consider.

“Based on the complicated nature of the issue and divergence between the bylaw requirements and financial outcome, staff reviewed several action options:

Proceed with parcel tax collection from South Lakeside residents in 2020 to fund the repayment of the loans and interest under previously agreed arrangement to fully meet the debt/interest repayments, and direct staff to bring forward the required amendment bylaws to formally establish a new bylaw termination date in 2020.

Accept the initial calculations established by the parcel tax bylaws and that taxes were not supposed to be collected past 2019 as per section 10 of the bylaws and direct staff to refund all South Lakeside specific parcel tax amounts collected in 2020 to property owners.

Proceed with parcel taxes collection from South Lakeside residents, but only to an amount that covers the remaining debt, and direct staff to bring forward the required amendment bylaws to formally establish a new bylaw termination date in 2020. If more parcel taxes are collected from South Lakeside residents than required to fully meet the loan and interest obligations, under Council resolution repay that excess portion to South Lakeside residents who paid corresponding parcel taxes in 2020.”

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