The City of Port Alberni’s infrastructure—roads, sidewalks, water, sewer pipes and more—is degrading at twice the rate the city is paying to fix it. And that could spell trouble for taxpayers down the road.
The Town of Comox, northeast of Port Alberni, is a prime example of what can happen. Three years ago, Comox went public with its infrastructure deficit, which the Comox Valley Conservation Society (CVCS) estimates is 10 times what the town can afford to pay.
In 2012, Comox’s public works superintendent was quoted as saying Comox was facing costs of $160 million to upgrade its infrastructure—when the town’s entire budget for 2010 was only $16 million.
The CVCS noted that only 20 per cent of new development infrastructure costs was being paid for by developers, leaving 80 per cent for the community to pay for.
In May 2013, Comox raised residential taxes 2.7 per cent (about $43 in additional property taxes) but it was hardly enough to pay for all the fixes.
Port Alberni residents are already taxed to the max, so adding significantly to that pain is not the solution. Much was discussed during the recent municipal election about keeping taxes low but facing the reality that funding and service cuts would be the other side of the cause and effect balance.
It is time to take our infrastructure deficit seriously, and to do something about it before we end up like Comox—costs rising to the stratosphere with no correlating increase in the tax base.
— Alberni Valley News