07/17/2014 07:29 EDT | Updated 09/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Seaterra's Esquimalt Bribe Should Leave Taxpayers Seaterr-ified

Seaterra's proposed Esquimalt bribe should leave Capital Regional District (CRD) taxpayers Seaterr-ified.

With the $788 million sewage treatment plan reeling like a bloodied prizefighter on his last legs, the CRD voted last week to send a letter to every Esquimalt property owner, offering to pay a portion of the community's capital costs in return for allowing a massive sewage plant to be built at McLoughlin Point.

The Times Colonist reported that the CRD believes this deal would bring the average sewage tax increase for Esquimalt residents down to $125 a year. But that number is wildly inaccurate - and should be considered by Esquimalt taxpayers as just more Seaterra spin.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) released an independent report by off-Island Certified Management Accountant, Sacha Peter, showing the CRD was grossly downplaying the true tax implications of the Seaterra scheme. Back then, the CRD's plan understated the average Victoria homeowner's tax bill by $579 over the first six years, Esquimalt by $555, and View Royal by $195.

Now Seaterra supporters want to add even more cost. With Colwood leaving the Seaterra plan and the CRD looking to charge Langford, Oak Bay, Saanich, View Royal, and Victoria taxpayers for Esquimalt's share, the tax increase for those five cities will be even higher.

Peter has run the new numbers for the CTF, looking at the Seaterra costs in two stages: the first six years, in which the CRD has promised a "phased-in" series of tax increases; and the ongoing annual cost from year seven on.

Over the first six years of the project, Victoria taxpayers can now expect to pay $1,920 in new sewage taxes -- $680 more than the CRD's lowballed prediction. That means as bad as the CRD's predicted tax hike is, it's going to be $110 a year worse for those first six years.

In year seven and beyond, once the Seaterra tax increases are fully phased-in, the annual sewage tax bill for a single family homeowner in Victoria will be $600 higher than it is today. That's $50 more in sewage taxes per month, forever.

In Saanich, once the increases are phased in, property taxpayers will shell out $290 more a year. Oak Bay residents will pay at least $400 more per year. View Royal taxpayers are looking at a $320 annual increase, and Langford single family homeowners can expect roughly a $330 hike.

As for Esquimalt, the savings are nowhere near as much as the CRD claims. Over the first six years of the project, Esquimalt's sewage tax hike would drop from a total of $1,640 to $1,480. That's a drop of roughly a toonie a month for those first six years. 

And the ongoing annual tax bill increase for the fully built plan would drop by $80 a year to $430 annually. Some deal: instead of Esquimalt taxes going up $510 a year, it will be "only" $430. And the CRD expects Esquimalt residents to be oh-so-grateful for this "generosity"?

It is unfathomable that the CRD has refused to release detailed property tax implications for the Seaterra project. The CRD has had years to do so, yet taxpayers are forced to rely on numbers calculated by the CTF rather than being given the hard, honest truth by the government sending them the bill.

The CRD's financial management of Seaterra has been Seaterr-ible since the start. It's time for the regional district to give taxpayers the true, detailed cost implications of this massive plan, and for Esquimalt taxpayers to put the CRD's letter in the recycle bin -- where it belongs.