Kitchener taxes rise to pay for decrepit city plumbing

Kitchener has kept its property tax increase to the rate of inflation, but water, sanitary and stormwater rates jump as city prepares to repair and replace aging infrastructure.

The average city homeowner is expected to pay $111 extra in taxes and fees in 2017

The property tax rate increase was kept low, but Kitchener councillors had to increase water, sanitary and stormwater rates by 8.75 per cent to deal with aging pipes and infrastructure. (Jane van Koeverden/CBC)

Kitchener residents will pay an additional $111 on average to the city in 2017.

City council approved its 2017 budget Monday night. It includes a 1.73 per cent property tax rate increase, which on a home assessed at $291,000 would mean a property tax rate increase of $18 for the year. 

I'm crossing my fingers that this is the last year we see very significant increases.- Coun. Scott Davey, Kitchener's finance and corporate services committee chairman

This amount is among the lowest property tax increases in the province, said Coun. Scott Davey, the city's finance and corporate services committee chairman.

But the budget also includes a 8.75 per cent increase for water, sanitary and stormwater utility, which on the same house is $93 a year.

​Davey said he was pleased with the final figures.

"In light of rising costs from other levels of government, I'm pleased that Kitchener managed to keep our property tax increase under inflation," Davey said in a release Monday night.

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the budget "strikes the right balance of strategic investments in infrastructure … while keeping costs as low as possible."
This truck drove into a sinkhole on Strasburg Road in Kitchener last February following a water main break. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

'Responsible thing' to fix aging pipes

The larger increase for water, sanitary and stormwater utility was largely because of the need for upgrades, Davey said.

"There's been a backlog of pipes that are aging and bursting over the years, and the responsible thing to do is to make sure to replace that so it doesn't fall apart," Davey told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Monday before council voted.

The federal government has recognized aging infrastructure is a problem, and he said it is hoped more money will flow from Ottawa to help offset some of these costs.

But Davey said it's dangerous to sit back and wait for those funds and so they have to ask ratepayers to pay more.

"There are people that are saying let's wait until it's a catastrophe because then our big brother senior levels of government are going to swoop in and fix it for us. And that's what's happened in the past and I think that's a very, very irresponsible approach," Davey said.

"I'm crossing my fingers that this is the last year we see very significant increases."

Listen to Coun. Scott Davey's interview:


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