(Editor’s note): Janet Ballantyne, of the residents’ group Rocky View Forward (RVF) obtained information from Rocky View based on a mandatory disclosure section in the Rocky View County Water and Wastewater Off-Site Levy Bylaw No. C-7273-2013, Section 10.1, included at the behest of the late councillor Al Sacuta. ** Dec. 17 addition: Click rvc-infrastructure-backgrounder and then click on Document icon.
By Janet Ballantyne
Rocky View Forward
In the early 2000s, the County spent $135.1 million on water and waste water infrastructure in east Rocky View.
They believed that if they built it, development would come. That has not happened. To make matters worse, the initial levies were set too low to collect a fair share of the costs from early developments. The County increased levy rates in 2013, but the development needed to pay for the system has still not come.
As a result, the County has carried the costs of this infrastructure for more than a decade. Most County residents believe that what is still owing is the County’s related long term debt, which was $56 million at September 30, 2016.
However, Rocky View’s Financial Services department has recently confirmed that the $56 million is only part of what is still outstanding. There is also $15.6 million that needs to be paid back into the County’s Tax Stabilization reserves and $14.7 million owing to specific developers who paid some of the initial costs upfront on an agreement that they would be repaid. That means that more than $86 million is still outstanding, before including accumulated interest.
“More than $86 million is still outstanding.” Janet Ballantyne
The County has used $1 million of general tax revenues each year since 2013 to accelerate repayment of the infrastructure long-term debt. The County promises that this will be repaid from future levies. But the $15.6 million taken out of the Tax Stabilization reserves when the infrastructure was built has still not been repaid.
General tax revenues have also been used each year to subsidize the infrastructure’s operating costs. This has been needed because there are not enough users for their utility rates to cover the annual operating costs. This subsidy appears to have been between $1.5 million and $2.3 million each year for the past 11 years. This is a total subsidy to users of this infrastructure of about $20 million – over and above the carrying costs from the initial $135.1 million spent on the infrastructure.
From Rocky View Forward’s perspective, this suggests that the County has not demonstrated a solid ability to repay the cost of the existing infrastructure. At past repayment rates, it will be at least another 20 years before it is finally repaid – probably until past 2040. Current economic conditions do not leave one optimistic that enough new development will appear to pay for the infrastructure at a faster rate.
Given all of this, Rocky View residents who are concerned about fiscal responsibility should be worried that financing options for expanding the water and waste water infrastructure in east Rocky View will be on Council’s agenda in January. We find it very troubling that Council may be contemplating adding even more to the burden of financing this infrastructure.
For more information, click rvc-infrastructure-backgrounder and then click on the Document icon.