North Saanich considers waiving fees for overdue utility bills amid COVID-19 crisis
The District of North Saanich is discussing postponing late fees on overdue utility payments during the COVID-19 pandemic: April 6, 2020 (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- The District of North Saanich is considering waiving its fees for overdue utility payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saanich Peninsula municipality currently has more than $114,000 in outstanding payment fees for sewer and water services.
Officials in North Saanich cite the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason for the 521 utility accounts that remain unpaid. Staff are now recommending a temporary waiving of the 10 per cent penalty on late payments.
The short-term measure is intended to assist individual households and businesses and offer some relief during the health crisis.
On Monday night, it is expected that council will vote to suspend the late fee and extend the due date for the next utility bill by an additional 30 days to July 31. The later due date will also result in extending the penalty due date to September 30.
By waiving the fee for late payment, the municipality may lose as much as $11,000 in revenue. In a phone conversation with CTV News Vancouver Island, North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr said the loss of revenue is acceptable to the district during the pandemic.
Staff of the municipality say that the short-term nature of the relief is consistent with what is being provided by other levels of government and will minimally impact the long-term financial health of the district.
But, in the island’s fastest growing municipality, the message is different. The City of Langford says it is using money from its municipal budget to wage war against the spread of COVID-19.
“If you’ve got the money, actually pay your bills ahead of time as far as I’m concerned, give the government like us the money to continue on,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young.
“We actually do need your money to fight COVID, so we want to make sure we get our money through the door here so we can help fight and do the right things for our community and our residents as well.”
Young says he is always in discussions with city staff about how to help people who live in the West Shore city.
“We know we are in a situation with a lot of affordable houses and there’s going to be people in a lot of trouble out here,” said Young. “Most of our bills are through our taxes and we have already talked about deferring, but when the taxes go out – we’ll manage that at that time.”
Young said Langford is also waiting to see what the federal and provincial governments are going to do for residents.
“They’re spending $82-million with nothing coming back to us,” said Young. “We pay a lot of taxes to the government because were the fastest growing city. We want to see some of that money flow back to us and help the people in the City of Langford.”
Young went on to say that while Langford has spent time and effort preventing the spread of COVID-19, more needs to be done.
He wants to see upper levels of government provide an incentive to individuals and companies to put cash back into reserves to help fight the coronavirus.
“The problem we have now is not the economy, it’s COVID,” said Young. “You win the fight with COVID, you win the fight with the economy and everyone will be back to work.”
The move by North Saanich to waive late fees for overdue utility bills mirrors steps taken by Saanich council last week.
Saanich suspended all penalties on late utility bills until further notice and predicts that the municipality will lose roughly $15,000 a month due to the decision.