Retroactive garbage pay angers PoCo residents
A city of Port Coquitlam decision to charge residents retroactively for garbage fees the municipality failed to collect has upset a group of homeowners at a 25-unit townhouse complex.
Thanks to a records-keeping oversight, residents of Willow Glen Estates have not paid a garbage levy since 1989 and the city is hoping to recoup a portion of the lost revenue.
Now the residents are being charged for this year’s fee and the two years previous — totalling approximately $530 per unit — an amount strata council president Clint Grayson said could be onerous for some families to pay.
“We have people that are literally living month to month,” said Grayson. “About a quarter of the people here are on fixed incomes.”
Last week The Tri-City News reported that 87 PoCo homes have not paid a garbage levy, some going back more than two decades, because of a records-keeping oversight at city hall.
Staff said that it is policy to collect the previous two years of payments when errors like this occur. In cases where the ownership of a home has changed during the 24-month time period, the new owner is charged from the time they took possession of the property.
However, Jodi Mason, a resident of Willow Glen Estates and a strata council member, said the city has not been able to provide her with a written policy that outlines the two-year retroactive collection rule.
“I asked if I could just see the written policy,” she said. “They told me there is nothing to see. It is just standard operating procedure.”
Mindy Smith, the city’s director of corporate services, said council is currently considering the matter and will discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday.
With a garbage levy that has fluctuated over the last 20 years, Smith said it would be difficult to calculate exactly how much revenue was lost, but she estimated it is more than $100,000. By collecting the previous two years’ worth of levies the city expects to make up approximately $40,000 in revenue.
Smith said the problem first came to light several months ago when staff began updating the city’s record-keeping software. The new software, she said, helped staff identify a number of homes that were not paying their fees and will keep similar errors from occurring in the future.
Councillors are expected to discuss the garbage levy issue at closed meeting on Monday.