City

Halifax regional councillors ask for storm water report

Council discusses funding options to fix storm water tax mistake

Councillor Steve Streatch stands up in discussion of storm water tax.
Coun. Steve Streatch stands up to speak during a discussion about the storm water tax.   Moriah Campbell

The wait is still not over for Halifax residents who were charged twice because of a storm water tax mistake.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council passed a motion for staff to prepare a report on charging the Storm Water Right-of-Way tax as an area rate. The report is expected in the new year.

The vote was 11-3 with councillors Lisa Blackburn, Tim Outhit and David Hendsbee opposing the motion.

During discussions Coun. Waye Mason, who put forward the motion, said the area rate option would tax Halifax residents in the Halifax Water service boundary who benefit from storm water services and not rural residents who don’t use it.

“This is the best of a bad option,” he said. “There are no good taxes.”

Blackburn, councillor for Middle and Upper Sackville-Lucasville, raised the issue that if the area rate funding option passes, residents of land lease property will be charged twice.

In a land lease situation, the landowner pays the property fee, which would then be reflected in the resident’s rent. If the area rate were passed, the resident would also be charged individually for storm water services. Property such as parking spaces and storage units would still be taxed under the area rate funding option.

“If you think that (trailer) park owners are not going to turn around and jack up lot rents to reflect the cost, you’re living in a dream world,” Blackburn said to Bruce Fisher, manager of financial policy and planning.

Outhit, councillor for Bedford-Wentworth, also expressed his concern during the discussion.

“This philosophically and ethically just rubs me the wrong way,” he said.

Double charging or “stacking,” as Mason referred to it, became an issue when council moved the Storm Water Right-of-Way fee from the water bill to the property tax bill. This resulted in residents who owned multiple properties being charged twice and condo owners being charged for property like parking spaces and storage units.

Mason said municipal staff are still reviewing possible ways in which they can reimburse Halifax residents who were double or triple charged.