Directors support deferring late penalties for utility bills

Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors voted to let people pay their water bills without penalty until the end of September.

Bills are due June 15, and normally if they are late a non-compounding two per cent monthly interest charge is added to unpaid balances of more than $10.

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At a May 21 committee meeting, directors voted unanimously to create a 106-day grace period for payments.

If directors finalize the decision, which they are expected to do at the May 28 board meeting, late fees won’t kick in until Sept. 30. Any charges or fees not paid by Dec. 31 would be transferred to property taxes.

The late fee deferral would apply to SCRD water and wastewater users.

Staff gave directors two other options: doing nothing or deferring penalties for 2020. Staff recommended the September option.

Last year, the SCRD collected $67,074 in late payment revenue.

They estimate that if they defer the application of late penalties to the end of September, the SCRD would lose approximately $24,000 and could lose $80,000 if they extended the grace period until the end of the year.

During the meeting, Area F director Mark Hiltz asked how the SCRD would make up the difference.

Chief financial officer Tina Perreault said a decision should be made later this year. “Essentially it would be future user fees if there was a deficit or it would mean a reduction to the contribution to operating reserves,” she said.

The SCRD is expected to collect $6.75 million from utility billing for 2020. As of May 21, they had collected approximately $2 million. The money would be used to fund water-related operating expenses and to build up an operating reserve.

Roberts Creek director Andreas Tize asked that the committee be updated after June 15 on how many people have paid their bills.

The current fee structure has been in place since 2017. Before that, a penalty of 10 per cent was placed on unpaid balances.

Regional water bills jumped by 43 per cent this year, prompting an outpouring of emails and phone calls to the SCRD.

Chair Lori Pratt and CAO Dean McKinley had previously apologized for not communicating the increase properly and said they would look into options for billing and set up a meeting with the public.

A “Let’s Talk Water” virtual Q&A session about water and utility bills has been scheduled for Monday, May 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

More information can be found at: https://www.scrd.ca/utility-bill-FAQ

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