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Burnaby councillor fails to stop sewer tax increase

Metro Vancouver will increase its sewer rates by almost 30 per cent in 2024.

Burnaby city council voted to raise its sewer tax by two per cent, but one councillor tried to stop the hike.

At a council meeting on Nov. 21, city staff presented a plan for Burnaby to increase its sewer tax by two per cent in 2023.

But Coun. Richard Lee, the sole One Burnaby councillor, opposed the plan, saying there is concern over the rate increase.

Lee said because Burnaby taxpayers have gone through the COVID-19 pandemic and face an increased cost of living, they should be spared another expense.

“Any increase, I think that will add to their burden,” he said at council.

The two per cent would amount to about a $5 annual increase for residents.

Lee suggested the city pull from its reserve fund to cover the full sewer budget and moved to set the increase at zero per cent.

But the motion failed, unsupported by any of the Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA) or Green Party councillors.

BCA Coun. Alison Gu said council should look ahead to the 28.2 per cent sewer tax increase from Metro Vancouver in 2024.

“Our job is to be responsible in governance and put away money for that, so that our taxpayers are not suddenly hit with a massive bill increase in 2024,” Gu said.

“I think it’s completely irresponsible to think that we just keep reserves for the sake of keeping reserves. Every single dollar of those reserves gets passed down to Burnaby taxpayers to buffer that tax increase.”

To set the sewer tax, the city factors in costs imposed by the Metro Vancouver Regional District, which manages the region’s sewer system.

The city draws on its reserves to minimize the rates charged by Metro Vancouver, according to a staff report.

Metro Vancouver is increasing its sewer rates in 2023 by 7.63 per cent (from about $28.9 million to $31.1 million), and by 28.2 per cent in 2024 (to $39.9 million).

Metro Vancouver’s rate increases come from a “need to expand the (sewer) system and address challenges posed by the growing population,” according to the staff report, along with its six major capital projects including the North Shore wastewater treatment plant upgrade and Burnaby Lake north interceptor.

Burnaby’s chief financial officer Noreen Kassam told council many cities pass those rates on directly to their taxpayers.

Burnaby plans to increase its sewer tax 10 per cent each year from 2024 to 2027 to account for the increased Metro Vancouver rates.

In the end, council passed the sewer tax increase of two per cent for 2023.