BY KELLY ROCHE
You can label it a rain tax, stormwater surcharge, or user fee but a tax is a tax, and Mississauga property owners are going to have to pay up in 2016.
“We never thought we would be charged for what falls from the sky onto our homes,” said Ward 2 resident William Chudiak.
“We learn something new every day.”
Property owners will see the stormwater charge, pro-rated from January 1, appear on their Region of Peel water bills in March or April.
Chudiak made a deputation to city council Wednesday – saying he has the support of more than 300 residents – requesting the implementation of a credit program for properties with rain gardens, stormwater ditches, or permeable pavement.
Satellite views of hard surfaces, such as rooftops and parking lots, determine cost: Freehold townhouses and row homes work out to $50, while very large homes will be charged $170.
Stormwater comes from rain and melted snow flowing from properties onto streets, down into more than 40,000 storm drains, landing directly into Lake Ontario.
With crumbling infrastructure and pipes at risk of collapsing, the city has a $1.9 billion stormwater deficit.
The July 8, 2013 storm caused extensive basement flooding across the city.
Water damage has devastated residents in Wards 1, 2, 4 and 7; south Mississauga is filled with large lots.
Ward 2 Coun. Karen Ras recently introduced a motion to look at how the city could launch a residential credit system since a rebate plan for multi-residential and commercial properties is already in place.
A working group has been assembled and a corporate report – with input from five councillors and city staff – is due in the spring.
The 2016 budget was approved Wednesday, with residents seeing an overall tax increase of 2.5 per cent, including 1.6 per cent for city services and 0.9 per cent for the Region of Peel.
That works out to $77 for the average home worth $535,000.
Combined with the median stormwater tax at $100, residents will be forking over an average of $177 — a cost Chudiak said he’d rather see lumped together.
“People don’t like the optics of that,” said Chudiak.
But a standalone tax is “more transparent,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie, and strictly dedicated to infrastructure.
“The concern is, if we offered credits on the residential side, it would cost more to administer that than we would end up raising if we had to address each and every household,” said Crombie.
Ras said the city must make investments into our system, and delaying the tax isn’t prudent.
“At the end of the day, the ratepayers of Mississauga are paying for this, and they have been paying for it for years on their regular property tax,” said Ras.
“So now it’s a separate line item, but they’re still paying for it.”
Ras chided city staff following discussion regarding the term ‘rain tax.’
“People were getting into the semantics over what it’s called,” she said.
“That’s not what my ratepayers are concerned about. They’re concerned about paying it, period.”
Chudiak said he plans to take the petition citywide.