Flushing money down the toilet

Change habits to limit tax increases

Over the past decade, Maple Ridge has added more and more homes and welcomed new residents to the community, but taxpayers have been faced with increases in their property taxes almost every year during this period. In conversation and in the media, I continually hear “We must increase our tax base to service our growing community” but I rarely hear, “How can we save money?”. As we have all seen, increasing Maple Ridge’s tax base is a long, arduous, and complex process but it’s important to note that we, as taxpayers, can make money-saving changes to our own behaviours that will benefit the community over the long term.

Recently, I was looking through a flyer from a local building supply company and saw a reference to a municipal toilet rebate program that offers participants $100 when they remove their old fixtures and convert to low flow, six litre flush toilets and low flow shower heads in their homes (applicable only to homes built prior to 2005). There are twelve districts and cities in British Columbia that have made this program available to local residents and it’s been shown to reduce not only water usage, but also the amount of effluent that is flushed down the sewer system. If you look at your 2009 property taxes, you’ll see that owners of single detached residential homes paid $348 for their water levy and $226 for sewer rates. Conversion to fixtures that use less water and produce less waste helps increase the efficiency of our homes by reducing the burden that we put on infrastructure services provided by the District of Maple Ridge.

While I agree that exploring options that would increase our municipal tax base is important, higher tax revenue is not the only way to keep a lid on property taxes in Maple Ridge. Participating in this rebate program and others like it is one of the many ways that residents can reduce personal waste and limit consumption — this type of activity helps reduce the total cost of the services to the community and, in the long term, will contribute to a more reasonable and logical history of tax increases.

I hope this letter flushes out some new thoughts and encourages people to look at other ways that limit consumption and our use of municipal services.

Update: 12 April 2010

Maple Ridge is now participating in the low flow toilet rebate program (.pdf). You can get a $50 ‘utlility tax rebate’ by meeting the criteria described in the official press release from the Municipality.

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