When my wife and I first considered moving to Vernon, we thought we did our homework on property taxes and fees. We moved here from another Okanagan location, had a more expensive home but our property taxes, including water, sewer, garbage, recycling (all these utility fees were included in our annual property tax bill), were still less than Vernon, nonetheless we decided we could live with the increase.
We were completely blindsided when we received our first Vernon utility bill in the mail. These obscene utility rates have got to be Vernon’s best kept secret. Not a word mentioned by real estate agents or anyone else when we were enquiring about property tax rates and fees. But since then, things have gone from bad to worse.
We received this quarter’s water and sewer bill for a whopping $440. We live on small lot in a gated community where all of the irrigation systems come on for the same amount of time each week. We have dual-flush, water-saver toilets. There are only two of us and we are away a great deal of the time.
We don’t just let water run down the drain when we are washing fruit and vegetables, but instead run it into a bucket in the sink and then either use the water to water shrubs and bushes or flush the toilet. We only take short showers, don’t have a hot tub and, as well, shut our irrigation off on rainy days and have a water-saver washing machine.
Furthermore we take our vehicles to the car wash instead of washing them at home.
I compared our utility bill with our neighbours to find that our bill was $200 higher and they often have their grandchildren staying with them. And they thought their bill was high. We did notice that our bill contained an extra charge for $72.30 for residential sewer low flat rate, which did not show on any of our neighbours’ bills.
We went to city hall to enquire why our rates would be so high and for an explanation for the extra $72.30 charge. It was explained to us that when they determine the sewer rates in the first quarter, if the water usage isn’t high enough they tack on an extra $72.30 per quarter for low consumption.
Yes, that is for low consumption.
So while our neighbors are only paying $50.20 per quarter for base sewer rates, we are paying the $50.20 base rate plus an additional $72.30 for low consumption. In addition our bill comparison shows that somehow my wife and I managed to use 65 cubic metres more water than our neighbours.
City hall gave us some tablets for our toilets to test for leaks — there are no leaks. They suggested we not run any water and check our water meter to see if the little red tab is still rotating. It isn’t.
Now they are asking Vernon area residents to approve a $70 million water upgrade, which by the way is only the beginning.
We will be saying so long Vernon. We are not about to stay living here just to be gouged. And really, who in their right mind would move to Vernon with the rates already so high and only to get worse?
I suppose the uniformed like us. We now know of several younger retirees with higher than average incomes and high percentages of disposal incomes, which should be an asset to any community, who have already left or are planning to leave. I expect we will be joining the exodus.