Just how much the area’s sweeping changes to the way solid waste is to be handled and is going to cost is becoming clearer now that residents are receiving their 2016 tax notices.
In both Terrace and the rural area surrounding the city, including Thornhill, residents are being taxed almost 66 cents per $1,000 of assessed value beginning this year.
“A $240,000 home would be just under $160,” said Kitimat-Stikine regional district deputy treasurer Yvonne Koerner in giving an example of what the increase might translate to on property tax notices.
The tax increase is part of a joint effort on behalf of the regional district and the City of Terrace to help pay for a concentrated recycling effort combined with disposing of less solid waste.
Key components include a new curbside organics collection service, closure of the city’s landfill and conversion of the Thornhill landfill into a transfer station for solid waste ultimately destined for a new landfill now under construction at Forceman Ridge, south of Terrace.
Property taxes are generally based on the combined land value and value of improvements, such as building a house, on a lot.
But Koerner said this rate increase is only taking into account assessed improvements to a property, not land value, so if an owner had a vacant lot, for example, they wouldn’t see this property tax increase.
The Terrace landfill is set to close this fall, as is the one in Thornhill when its conversion to a transfer station is finished.
Construction of the new regional landfill, Forceman Ridge, began in 2015 and is to be finished later this year as well.
It’s 30km south on Hwy37 and will only be used by waste workers and won’t be open to the public.
The construction of both the new waste transfer station and landfill facility are being paid for by the federal gas tax and by money the regional district borrowed from the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia.
The sum of $3 million has been borrowed by the regional district for the Thornhill transfer station and another $10 million for the Forceman Ridge landfill.
The cost of operating and repaying the debt on the new services and facilities will be paid for through a combination of garbage utility taxes, property taxes and tipping fees.
The curbside organic collection service coming this fall, exclusive to the City of Terrace, is partially being paid for through the city’s already existing garbage utility tax.
City communications spokesperson Brian Doddridge said in an email that garbage utility fees remain at $4.75 per household per week, or $247 per year, and added this fee has not increased over the past year.
“These fees provide funding for the pick-up of garbage and recycling, as well as the purchase of bins for the new organics waste stream. It will also cover the organic waste pick-up service,” Doddridge said.
Doddridge also said city residents might have noticed a new line on their tax notices this year entitled “RDKS-Solid Waste,” which represents the money requisitioned by the regional district through property taxes to pay for the new waste costs.
According to Koerner, the regional district and city plan to pay for up to half the operating costs of the new services and facilities by having tipping – or “dumping” – fees.
Prior to this, it was free to deposit household garbage at the landfills in Terrace and Thornhill.
“If you choose not to use the curbside and you decide to go out to the dump – it might be that you missed garbage day or just got more than you can put out on the curb – you’ll be weighed and there’ll be a fee. You won’t be able to just bring your garbage out there,” Koerner said.
“Household garbage has been free at the Terrace landfill. Now everyone will go across the scale and there’ll be a tipping charge. The goal is to use curbside because that’s something they’ve already paid for.”
The tipping fees are estimated to be $110 per tonne for accepted wastes such as garbage, $99 per tonne for organics and $55 per tonne for metal such as large appliances.
A release from the regional district encourages residents to make use of curbside collection for recyclables, garbage and organics. “The more you divert, the less it will cost,” it says.
Koerner couldn’t say when the new facilities and services would become available.
“We’re still waiting for bylaws to be approved – there’s a lot of variables. The guess would be October but nobody wants to give any firm dates yet,” Koerner said.