New in 2017 – Utilities late payment penalty introduced to improve municipal cash flow

Updated January 19, 2017: Following community feedback, District of Squamish Council revised the penalty aspect of this policy from a one-time 10 per cent penalty to a two-time five and five per cent penalty, as outlined in the updated news release below. Additional information below outlines the necessity for improved cash flow in relation to receipt of payments.

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In 2017, a five per cent late payment penalty will be applied to any outstanding balance on both property taxes and utilities on July 5. A second five per cent penalty will be applied to outstanding balances on August 1. Payment for both property taxes and utilities are due on or before July 4, 2017.

The new payment system will improve cash flow for the District by moving the majority of utilities payments to mid-year. Prior to 2015, an incentive discount for early payment of utilities was offered which enabled the District to collect over 70% of payments early. The early discount, (essentially a penalty for those paying later), was effective but added a duplicate process and so was administratively inefficient.

“As we’ve transitioned, there has been a two-year period with no discount program nor late payment penalty for utility payments, creating the perception that the due date was December, and resulting in a significant impact to our cash flow,” says District of Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman. “We appreciate that it’s challenging for residents to be able to pay off a large bill at one time; managing cash flow is something we all grapple with. By introducing the ‘5 and 5’ per cent late payment penalties, we are trying to be sensitive to those who simply missed the deadline, and those who could use a little more time.”

52% of residents paid their utilities by July 4, 2016. By not collecting the other 48% until the end of the year, the District must fund operations throughout the year through short-term borrowing or by forgoing interest on cash balances the municipality holds.

“Not collecting payments while providing a full year of service ultimately costs all residents through higher utility fees,” says the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Christine Mathews. “A penalty discourages rate payers from deferring payments, and ensures that rate payers who meet the July 4 deadline will not bear the higher costs created by those that defer to year-end. The late payment penalties will offset any interim borrowing costs incurred to fund operations for the second half of the year.”

 Payment options

  • Property taxes can be incorporated into a mortgage payment, but financial institutions DO NOT pay utilities. Taxpayers must pay their own utilities to avoid the late payment penalty.
  • To avoid a large one-time payment, monthly instalment payments can be made to the District of Squamish Property Tax and Utility Accounts, up to July 4 for the current year’s taxes. Monthly payments can continue to be applied after July 4 for the following year’s taxes and utilities (2018).
  • Alternatively, the taxpayer may choose to set up his/her own monthly savings plan through a separate savings account and then transfer a lump sum to the District by the July deadline (the first business day following Canada Day).
  • Once the Property Tax Notices are sent out, the Homeowner Grant can be applied for online.
  • Late payment penalties are avoided by paying both property taxes and utilities in full on or before July 4, 2017.
  • Payments can be made in person, by mail, deposit in the after-hours drop box at Municipal Hall, or via telephone or Internet banking.

Provincial tax deferment program

For those on a limited fixed income or who find themselves unable to pay, deferment loans for property taxes may be available through the Province of British Columbia. Two different programs are available, including one for those 55 or older, a surviving spouse of any age, or a person with disabilities, and a second program for families with children. For details and to apply visit the BC Government website.

Further information and Frequently Asked Questions regarding the utility payment due date and penalty are available online at squamish.ca/utilities

About property taxes and utilities

As in all municipalities, property taxes and utilities are the primary source of funding for the District of Squamish. Under the Community Charter, municipalities may recover part or all of the cost of providing services by levying taxes against properties. The District of Squamish works diligently to ensure core services are maintained while supporting other important initiatives and service improvements the community wants and needs. It is of primary importance to the District that residents receive good value for their tax dollar.

January 12, 2017

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Comments

  • Tania Music Jan 13, 2017

    I have always found it archaic that taxes were due in a lump sum along with utilities - but at least they were spread out through the year (50/50). Fine, I can deposit $XX monthly to an account for this, and have done so to ease the burden of getting one huge bill. However, I now have 6 months, not 12 to fund both my taxes AND utilities. This should have had a minimum one year notice to let people adjust accordingly. For some, doubling what they save monthly to pay both property tax and utilities is unmanageable.

    Overall, I don't understand why we don't have the option for monthly billing, but even if I accept the argument that this is a more streamlined process for the district and will reduce costs (and lets be honest, it's not about making it easier for homeowners) why would you not have it all due at the END of the year - or give a minimum 12-18 month's notice so people could be prepared.

    Sorry, poor implementation and weak argument that this is for the homeowners benefit.

    • A Jan 13, 2017

      In the paragraph called "Payment Considerations", it states that a monthly payment option is being introduced:

      "To avoid a large one-time payment, monthly installment payments can be made to the District of Squamish Property Tax and Utility Accounts."

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