Morrisburg and Iroquois residents hooked in to the municipal water and sewer system are going to see a substantial increase in their water and sewer bills this fall.
Municipal officials have been warning that an increase is necessary to cover the operational cost of the municipality’s waterworks since budget time. Last week, staff presented council with the numbers showing just how big an increase is needed.
Staff told council that the monthly base water rate would have to jump to $30.26 from the current $21.99 to sufficiently fund current operating and capital requirements.
Council was not willing to commit to that big of an increase at this point, and opted for an alternative sufficient to meet the 2014 budget needs, which is a monthly base water rate of $27.52.
Once the water consumption charges, capital levy and sewer charges are factored in to the equation, the average Morrisburg water/sewer user will pay just over $96 a month and the average Iroquois user will pay just over $106 a month. Currently, Morrisburg users paying about $85 monthly and Iroquois users $94.
South Dundas chief administrative officer Steve McDonald explained that a huge decrease in water consumption has made it more and more difficult for the municipality to cover the operational costs of the water plant, which within the next few years will need a significant investment of funds as the plant’s costly Xenon filters are nearing the end of their expected lifespan. Meters are also reaching the end of their lifespan, and a replacement program with smart meters will be needed in the near future.
From 2007 to 2013 water consumption dropped by almost 22 per cent here in South Dundas. This trend is similar to that seen across the province, which has seen a 19 per cent decrease in consumption.
Declining water use is related to changes in plumbing codes, higher water rates prompting consumers to cut back, and changes in consumer attitudes which have brought more efficient appliances into their homes. (For example, a high efficiency clothes washing machine uses about 100 litres of water less per load than a traditional washer.) Formerly common practices like lawn watering and car washing have also been reduced.
Despite the fact that bringing water and sewer operations in house has saved South Dundas $65,000 in payroll costs from the previous contract, South Dundas is still needing to dip into water reserves to cover 2014 operational and capital costs.
Last year, almost $400,000 had to be drawn from the water reserve, and the treasury is estimating that almost $300,000 will need to be drawn from the reserve in 2014, depleting it to less than $50,000.
While the water reserve is being depleted, the sewer reserve remains healthy, at about $1 million between the Morrisburg ($700,000) and Iroquois ($300,000) reserves.
Council and staff, at this point, agreed that those sewer reserves should not be touched until the new Iroquois waste water treatment plant has been operating at least a year.
From experience they know that the cost of operating a new secondary treatment plant, especially the hydro cost, is much higher than the former primary treatment plant.
“There’s no magic. It’s user pay, and it’s got to be dealt with,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke.
“For this year we have to increase it to what we need, and then do it again next year,” said councillor Jim Graham.
“We’re going to have to do annual increases. We’re not meeting what’s needed in the budget,” said councillor Evonne Delegarde. “We need to increase the rates every year until we are caught up, so we don’t fall further and further behind.”
“We have to have the money to run the plant,” said councillor Archie Mellan. “We are in a predicament because we are trying to play catch up.”
“We can’t let it go,” said South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds. “That would not be fair to the next council. We can’t ignore this.”
The bylaw to approve the rate increase will go to council in September, and staff are expecting to implement the change October 1, 2014.