County looking towards full cost recovery in water charges

Council reviewed the Master Rates Bylaw, specifically the Water Charges, during the Tues. Oct. 9 regular council meeting.

At the Sept. 18 Committee of the Whole (COW) Meeting, Council directed administration to bring back the Master Rates Bylaw for the upcoming regular council meeting on October 9 to review some proposed rate changes for the 2019 fiscal year and so they can be implemented in the 2019 Interim Operating Budget.

Several changes were implemented into the revision of the bylaw with a net increase of $780,000 in additional revenue.

Under the Variable Water Consumption Rate category, council wanted to see one unified rate for all connections that receive county water with the rate coming into effect on Jan. 1, 2019 at $3.50 per cubic metre.

Users will receive that rate up to a given amount of water. Utilities are billed out bi-monthly.

Excessive water use would be determined at over 100 m3 per billing period with a rate of $9 per cubic metre.

The bulk water rate may be $5 per cubic metre up to 50 per cubic metres monthly, with excess over 50 cubic metres monthly at $9 per cubic metre and a minimum $10 charge on top.

Bulk water rates are billed out monthly unlike consumption rates. There will be approximately 159 bills that will exceed the 100 cubic metre amount.

All of these increased fees are to move the County towards full cost recovery of operating costs to about 91 per cent. Cost recovery is currently around 45 per cent.

Council directed administration to increase the riser fee charge to be increased to $10,000 during the COW meeting as well.

Administration recommended that council approve an increase for additional rural water volume also be increased to $10,000 to mirror the increase to the riser fees.

Administration also recommended an increase of $30 to fees for reconnection and disconnection charges as well as a new administration fee for transferring utility charges to taxes where applicable as this rate has been the same for several years.

“I know that I have a number of residents who are concerned in terms of direction and speed of the movement and so I am wondering if there is maybe some openness or conversation that is needed at this table to amend those rates before we go ahead with the master rates bylaw,” said Deputy Reeve Kenneth King.

Coun. Wade Christie said that he liked the changes that were made in April but not the proposed changes seen in the updated version.

“I like the idea of a single rate but to move from $3.50 to $5 and $9 is pretty aggressive. I think $3.50 is a reasonable step for the first year to get it to a common rate and start to get to cost recovery but to go to $5 and $9 is pretty aggressive,” he said.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock joined in saying the jump from $3.50 to $5 was ‘Excessive’. Coun. Faye McGhee, Coun. Debbie Penner and Deputy Reeve King agreed with all the previous statements.

“I guess that’s the concern I would have as well and certainly that concern has been reflected to me by my ratepayers,” said King. “It’s been reinforced to me that there has definitely been a lot that live in those areas that are seniors who are on low income and that’s a significant ask on our part. When we talk 35 cents compared to a $1.80 something, that is a significant difference.”

Reeve Wittstock mentioned that the county will be on the hook for varying water prices from suppliers.

“We are at the mercy of our water suppliers for the two systems that we are already hooked to which is the Aqua 7 and Three Hills Water so those will generally come up in November when we get the rates from the Town.

“There will probably be a change in the Master Rates Bylaw for the water to reflect the possible water charges coming in,” said Wittstock.

“We need someplace to begin this conversation so there you have it,” added King.

King proposed an amendment to keep the bylaw at the 2018 rates and to take the time to have some conversation with ratepayers and look towards change going forward into the 2020 budget year.

Coun. Jim Hugo offered another solution that might help the county and ratepayers.

“I agree with Ken that we have to hold the water rates back and that but If we took the Hamlets like Huxley and that to $2 per cube and the rest of the water lines at $3.50. It would still be an increase but it’s not so onerous of an increase that we are going to cause hardship on our ratepayers,” said Hugo.

The previous motion from King was rescinded so a motion to amend the residential users rate for the areas of Huxley, Wimborne, Equity and Mt. Vernon be $2 from $1.64 as per the discussion with the remainder of water systems move to $3.50. Council passed first reading.

Council found fault with the riser fee increase from $6,000 to $10,000. At the COW meeting, council asked to reflect the new system, not to change the rates of the current systems.

With that being reinstated at $6,000, council moved second and third reading which was carried.

When the water rates change from the county suppliers in November, council will bring this bylaw back as they adjust for these rates.

Kneehill Regional FCSS budget

Administration received the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) 2019 Budget.

Under the Kneehill Regional FCSS Agreement, it states that the board shall prepare the annual budget and provide a copy to each participating municipality for review and approval.

The Kneehill Regional Board approved at their Sept. 11, 2018 meeting to increase the municipal requisition by five per cent in 2019.

The last requisition increase was in 2015.

Kneehill County’s contribution in 2018 was $44,639 and will be $47,388 in 2019.

“We are getting good value for what they are doing,” said Deputy Reeve King.

King made a motion to approve the budget.

Council approved the Kneehill Regional FCSS 2019 Budget and Allocations that was presented to Council.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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