Road tax gets a rough ride

The District of Lake Country’s parcel tax to raise funds for road improvements isn’t going over well

  • Apr. 27, 2016 7:00 p.m.

The District of Lake Country’s parcel tax to raise funds for road improvements isn’t going over well with some factions of the community while the district says it was the fairest way to raise money to help an aging road system.

And while there has been residents concerned about the tax, Transportation for Tomorrow is not the only parcel tax residents face each year in Lake Country as taxes are already in place to help with sewer and waste water management.

Resident Nancy Green, who has lived in Lake Country for 10 years, questions the way the district introduced the $125 parcel tax this year.

“This is something that’s being shoved down everybody’s throats,” said Green, who operates the welcome wagon service in Lake Country. “It’s like a license to tax us without having any way to get out of it. You’re stuck with it.”

The district recently sent letters out to individual home-owners explaining the parcel tax, a $125 fee for each property owner in Lake Country this year. The fee structure is laid out over 20 years and will fund improvements to Lake Country’s aging road system, much of which is in need of repair. Over the next four years the tax will increase by a maximum 1.83 per cent before levelling out with Lake Country hoping to raise an average of $230 per home over the 20 year Transportation for Tomorrow plan.

Lake Country Mayor James Baker said he has heard the complaints from residents but added the parcel tax was the option that council thought was the most equitable way to raise the funds necessary to fix the roads infrastructure.

“The people that are most upset feel that it was an under-handed way of getting more funding but we saw it as a more equitable way to raise the funds we need for Transportation for Tomorrow,” said Baker. “It wasn’t done overnight. A lot of discussions took place about Transportation for Tomorrow and how the money would be raised. The parcel tax was looked at as a vehicle that would be implemented short term as a more fair aspect where everybody pays the same amount instead of a progressive tax that occurs with assessment.”

Despite the objections of some in the community, parcel taxes aren’t new within the district and in fact there are already several in place, according to the District of Lake Country. Some of them target every property as the Transportation for Tomorrow tax does and some of them are for specific properties only, depending on each parcel tax bylaw.

In 1998, Lake Country council adopted a sewer parcel tax in the amount of $225 on every parcel of land in Lake Country and then in 2015 council amended the tax and increased it to $275. A waste water management parcel tax is a $75 yearly tax that most residents pay while some fruit growers face a parcel tax to be included in the Sterile Insect Release program.

“(Parcel taxes) are certainly not new,” said Baker. “We had the one for the (waste water management) at $75 that has been in place virtually since we incorporated to address the cleaning up of septic fields running into the lake. It’s on every parcel much the same as the Transportation for Tomorrow: It makes the roads safer for everybody whether they are pedestrians or cyclists or drivers.”

Transportation for Tomorrow is a 20-year plan, however the parcel tax bylaw does not include a date where residents will stop paying the tax. According to Lake Country’s corporate services manager, not having an end date is common on parcel tax bylaws as the plan to fund improvements on roads will need to be reviewed along the way and could change in the future.

For more explanation of the Transportation for Tomorrow plan, go to the district’s web site at okanaganway.ca and search Transportation for Tomorrow.