South Dundas council was handed a shocking proposal from municipal administration when discussing the water budget last week. Administration proposed a series of rate increases for existing users of the municipal water and sewer system, in part to help pay for growth.
As proposed, Morrisburg water users could have seen the largest increases. This includes moving the sewer rate up 25 per cent to match the water rate, increasing the Water Plant Capital Levy by 23 cents per cubic metre, and a flat $15 increase each to the water and sewer monthly charges. A family using 20 cubic metres of water per month in Morrisburg might have paid $46.76 more per month. Council did not support the sewer budget proposals at this point, opting to flush that conversation to a later day. Council was “amenable” to the water increases, which means that all water users will see at least $15 per month more on their bill, plus the 23 cents per cubic metre Capital Levy increase. For that same 20 cubic metres per month family, those increases amount to $19.60 per month. Once approved that will affect all users in Morrisburg and Iroquois.
Water users must pay for the system. That burden cannot be placed on non-users in the municipality. Additionally, the previous term of South Dundas council committed the municipality to a significant amount of spending towards extending services for and in the new Dutch Meadows subdivision. While many municipalities do not pay for this type of infrastructure, we are. Council sent the sewer fees back to the drawing board, and reminded staff that growth pays for growth. Not all councils would have had the fortitude to not saddle existing water users with the costs to expand the water system for new users.
South Dundas has seen a number of infrastructure challenges to solve including landfills that were swept under the rug for decades by previous councils. That bill is over $1 million so far and continuing to grow. Recently the municipality also agreed to over $2 million in long-overdue repairs to the two water towers. The infrastructure deficit in South Dundas is well beyond our borrowing capacity, which is nearly maxxed out as it is.
What is most concerning is the apparent attitude by administration that there is an endless pot of money from residents and users to keep paying for increases.
Creative solutions are required to fix complicated problems. As a municipality, there is only so much borrowing that can be done and in many cases, only so many users to pay for it.