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Sechelt director 'struggles' with proposed SCRD water rate increases

Sechelt director Alton Toth asked the Sunshine Coast Regional District board whether proposed 2024 annual water rate increases of $101 and $165 per residential property was 'too much' at once.
Over the shoulder view of someone filling a glass of filtered water right from the tap in the kitchen
Area residents will have the chance to weigh in on water rate changes in virtual information sessions on the evenings of Nov. 27 and 29.

Are proposed 2024 Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) annual water rate increases of $101 to $165 per residential property a case of “too much” at once? That’s what Sechelt area director Alton Toth asked his board counterparts to consider at their Nov. 23 meeting.

In a split vote, the board endorsed a Nov. 10 committee recommendation to have rate amending bylaws prepared at those levels and that the board vote on the changes for customers of the regional, North and South Pender water systems on Dec. 14. Opposed to that motion were Toth, his fellow Sechelt director Darren Inkster and Area D (Roberts Creek) director Kelly Backs.

Toth said he had “struggled” with the proposed increases. “I worry that this is too much of an increase for 2024…We do know there are affordability challenges, we do know that there are infrastructure deficits and we know that it is going to be a lot more expensive for water going forward. I just don’t think 2024 is a year that we should make a big jump (to rates) without further work on that capital plan.” 

The rate changes were recommended following committee receipt of a 2023 water service capital planning update report. That stated the assets across all three services have a combined current replacement value of nearly $600 million. "Although most of these assets are still in fair or better condition a significant portion will require replacement in the coming decades," it said. It also encouraged elected officials to make "strategic funding decisions today that will secure the financial sustainability of the SCRD water services for the future." In the case of the regional water service, the report stated that the system's infrastructure will require "approximately $150 million invested into asset renewal over the next 30 years. After which over $770 million dollars is projected to be required in the two decades beyond that."

Area E (Elphinstone) director Donna McMahon, who moved the recommendation stated she sympathized with Toth’s concerns. She also said she could not see “the issue of affordability being resolved any time soon."

“While I’m not overjoyed to be raising utility rates that much, I don’t see that we have prudent alternatives,” she explained.

Public Info sessions

Area residents will have the chance to weigh in on Toth’s question about water rate changes and to pose their own in virtual information sessions on the evenings of Nov. 27 and 29.  In a Nov. 23 reminder, the SCRD provided meeting attendee links to the online events and explained that each will include an overview of the systems to be discussed, their ongoing challenges, as well as 2024 funding requirements.

The session on Nov. 27, at 6 p.m. will focus on the changes for the North and South Pender systems. North Pender has the SCRD’s highest current combined fees and charges for water at $1,303.45, but the proposed lowest increase of $101.55. 2024 annual charges, if approved by the board, would be $1,405.

Those on the South Pender service are facing the highest potential annual increase of $165.22. If endorsed, that would see current combined water rates go to $1,360 next year, up from the current $1,194.78.

It’s also a 6 p.m. start for the virtual event on Nov. 29, where proposed water rate changes for users on the SCRD’s regional water system will be discussed.  Regional customers, those connected to the Chapman, Langdale, Egmont, Cove Cay, Eastbourne, Granthams and Soames systems, are paying $1,043.54, which is proposed to rise to $1,405 next year.