An Improvement District can collect some of its income by levying an annual Water Parcel Tax. Water parcel tax is actually part of the annual property tax a landowner pays. Provincial law allows us to collect our portion directly from the landowners in the North Salt Spring Waterworks District rather than having the Minister of Finance BC or the Capital Regional District (CRD) collect it for us and then apportioning funds back to the District. This way, money collected for the water system in our District is both collected in and spent to the benefit of our District. In an incorporated area, such as a city or town, this tax would be part of a property owner’s property tax.
The money we collect is used partly for operating costs and capital improvements, to pay down long term debt on capital projects. The excess is generally held in reserve for new projects and improvements.
The rates are set each year by the Board of Trustees acting on behalf of the District’s ratepayers. Please visit our FAQs page for answers to frequently asked questions about parcel tax.
Billed annually, every February, Water Parcel Tax in 2017 was invoiced on February 3, 2017, and is due on or before March 10th, 2017.
Changes In 2017
In the spring of 2016 the Board commissioned InterGroup Consultants of Winnipeg to undertake a review of our parcel tax system, research how other districts tax, and recommend options for a revised system for NSSWD to implement that would be more proportionately fair. Building on InterGroup’s recommendations and liaison with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Relations (the District’s governing ministry) the revised structure factors in property use as well as different types of use into the equation – for example: commercial retail vs. commercial residential, seasonal use vs. year round use, vacation type rentals vs. long-term rentals, and metered vs. non-metered. The resulting structure is what the Board believes is a system that is fair and equitable to all property owners.
Up until 2016, for the North Salt Spring Waterworks District parcel tax was dependent on the acreage of the land only, as defined by BC Assessment when the lot is registered. In 2017, from four categories, we are moving to multiple categories as we have tried to capture a cross-section of property types and use in the district. For example, most residential property owners will remain in their current class, while owners of commercial and some residential properties will be placed in a new tax category such as:
- Residential with cabin(s) or suite(s), including family use compounds, caretaker accommodation & long term rentals
- Commercial Single unit
- Commercial Multi-Unit – complexes with multiple offices, stores, restaurants, etc.
- Commercial Residential 1, 2, 3 or 4 – apartment buildings, senior care & community service housing, modular home parks, and seasonal RV parks & campgrounds
- Commercial Hotels 1 or 2 – hotels, vacation apartments, guest houses and residential homes with B&Bs, with or without restaurants
- Commercial Marinas
All owners will pay a basic parcel tax and surcharge at either a residential or commercial rate, and be charged incrementally for additional residential or business units based on the type of units. It is expected that these changes will only affect 12% of property owners and any increases will be phased in over the next four years for affected ratepayers and five years for the modular home park. Vacant lot owners will see a decrease in their base parcel tax rate. Board members and staff are meeting with individual commercial owners to explain the new system and its phase in process.
Assessment Notices indicating your existing or new tax class (if applicable) under the District’s new Assessment Bylaw 278 and 2017 Parcel Tax Bylaw 279 were mailed on November 18, 2016. If you feel you have been incorrectly assessed and placed in the wrong class you may petition the District’s Court of Revision. Due to the changes to our Parcel Tax structure the District held two Courts of Revision for 2017, one on December 14, 2016 and another on February 21, 2017.
Court of Revision
Held annually, the Court of Revision is a process that allows ratepayers who feel that there has been an error made with regards to their assessed lot size or use to dispute their assessment. For example: The assessment states that your property is a Lot Size B, and you believe you are a Lot Size A, you may bring their proof to dispute this to the Court of Revision. District rates and other issues may not be discussed at the Court.
Petitioners are welcomed on a first-come, first-served basis. Only the property owner(s), or in the case of a business, a representative for the business, may petition the Court. A person representing a business must supply written authorization from the business owner or the company’s Board of Directors, whichever is appropriate, stating that they are authorized to act on behalf of the company. As Parcel Tax is a legal matter, each case will be discussed privately with the judges and the owner(s) or owners’ representative. Owners will receive a written decision subsequent to the meeting.
To dispute your lot size, please bring an up-to-date property survey. To dispute your type of residence, business and/or number of units/cabins/suites/RV pads/campsites or rooms please bring proof that your property is in fact another type of business or is not a business; has charitable status; has more or less units, RV pads, campsites, B&B suites/rooms, hotel rooms, or boat slips; or is not the property owned by you and advertised for rental on the SSI Exchange, or another website, such as AirBnB, whichever is applicable.
Dues Dates & Penalties
All 2017 taxes are due in 35 days from the date of the invoice.
A 10% penalty will be levied on the 36th day after invoicing on March 11th, 2017 with a second 5% penalty being assessed on June 1st, and a third 5% penalty being assessed on September 1st on those accounts remaining unpaid as of August 31st, 2017. The amount due before and after the penalty date is shown on the invoice. Please note that to avoid paying a penalty all payments must reach the District office no later than 4:00 p.m. on the due date.
When payments are made by mail, bills shall be considered as having been paid on the date of receipt by North Salt Spring Waterworks District. To view the District’s Penalty Waiver Handling Policy click here.
Interest is charged quarterly on parcel tax accounts more than 12 months in arrears. The interest rate is set quarterly by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development: Local Government Infrastructure and Finance branch. The current rate is 5.70%.
Payments are processed on the day they are received in our office up to 4:00 pm. Payments received after 4:00 pm and after hours and on weekends are processed on the next business day.
We’d like to remind customers that the day you pay online is not the day the District receives the payment. Online payments may take as long as 5 business days to reach us. Please allow sufficient time for your payment to reach our office before any scheduled penalty date.
The same is true for those of you using regular mail. It can take anywhere from 1-15 days for a cheque to reach the office, depending on where you live.
Customers can pay by Visa or MasterCard over the phone or in person. We also accept debit cards in the office. View our Credit & Debit Card Policy here.
Tax Sale Date
For tax payers who are more than two years in arrears on their parcel tax account the district may initiate proceedings as allowed under Sections 718 to 724 of the Local Government Act. Said Act allows us to attach and sell properties more than two years in arrears of payment of taxes.
The 2017 Tax Sale date is yet to be determined.
Capital Construction Fund Surcharge
Major capital expenditures for a new plant treatment plant on St. Mary Lake and other infrastructure improvements are now in the works. However, many years of undercharging on our rates and recent district improvements have left our reserve building funds extremely low.
At the October 17th, 2012 Board meeting Trustees voted to impose a surcharge of $30.00 per parcel taxed lot, and $5.00 per water toll billing ($2.50 per month) to each District customer beginning in 2013. It was raised to $120 per lot in 2015, and $150.00 in 2016.
In 2017, per Bylaw 279, the surcharge remains at $150 per parcel taxed lot to further build the reserve fund in anticipation of continuing payments on the construction loan for the St. Mary Treatment Plant, followed by conversion to the long-term loan in late 2017. Monies collected to date are invested in a specially created Capital Construction Fund account to accumulate interest, and will eventually be used to help pay for the new plant, either as a loan down payment or to directly pay for part of the design or construction costs and for other capital projects. Excess operating surplus may also be channelled into this investment fund.
The Board asked for ratepayer approval to borrow a sum of up to $10.4 million to finance the new DAF Water Treatment Plant on Tripp Road adjacent to St. Mary Lake. Borrowing Bylaw 264 was passed by referrendum on March 28, 2015 and received Ministry approval on May 13, 2015.
It is expected that, if the District needs to borrow the full amount, that this will result in a surcharge of between $250-$290 per rate payer. The District is making every effort to reduce costs throughout the process, and it is hoped that the actual costs and necessary contingency will be substantially reduced from preliminary estimates.
Details and FAQs about the project and the approval process are available in the section St. Mary DAF Plant.