Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen
Projected increases to the newly structured stormwater fee have some rural politicians livid, with one councillor fearing the city duped residents into settling for the so-called rain tax.
Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who heads council’s rural affairs committee, couldn’t mask his frustration during an environment committee meeting on Tuesday as staff presented their proposed 10-year financial plan for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
The plan calls for annual increases to the stormwater fee between 10 per cent and 13 per cent through 2027.
The city went through a painful process last year to convince residents who aren’t on municipal water and sewer services that they need to pay a stormwater fee, since only those who received water and sewer bills were actually paying for the city’s stormwater infrastructure program.
Moffatt recoiled at the latest staff plan to hike the stormwater fee by substantial rates starting in 2018.
“It presents as though the stormwater fee will be increased significantly over the next 10 years and I feel that’s not what we said last year,” Moffatt said after the environment committee meeting.
It’s “disingenuous” that the city sold a new stormwater fee to residents in 2016 and then came back in 2017 with a report that recommends expanding the stormwater budget, Moffatt said.
Moffatt seemed equally disheartened that no one at city hall apparently gave him a heads up about the proposed increases, especially since he worked hard during the consultations on the highly controversial stormwater fee and rate review in 2016.
“Why would you leave someone out? I would never do that to my colleagues,” Moffatt said. “I would never blind-side my colleagues on anything.”
Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, the chair of the environment committee, said residents and councillors would have known that future financial plans would impact the stormwater fee.
“I don’t believe residents were at all hoodwinked, misled, lied to. No shell games here,” Chernushenko said. “I know our staff made it very clear, and I made a point of insisting that we make it clear, that what we were talking about during the rate review was how we allocate who pays what portion.”
The amount the city needs to pay for stormwater services is something that would be considered on an annual basis through budgets and a long-range financial plan, Chernushenko said.