At last Monday’s Committee of the Whole Council meeting, Sean-Michael Stephen, manager at Watson and Associates Economists Ltd., presented his report containing recommendations for rates for water and waste water (that is “sewer”) for the next 5 years as well as a forecast to 2030. Although there were questions from Councillors, the recommendations were approved and will be formally put in place at next Monday’s regular Council meeting. Over the last 5 years, rates have increased by 5.3% per year and will increase by 5.9% per year over the next 5 years. The increases are needed to fund the “long term capital needs of the systems by 2030, providing for the sustainable replacement of infrastructure and ongoing operation and maintenance of the systems.”
The presentation was long and difficult to follow but there were questions. Councillor Brian Darling asked about the possibility of reducing the base charge and compensate with an increased usage charge. This would help people trying to save costs by conserving water. In response Sean-Michael said that the base charge is intended to cover the fixed cost of supplying water regardless of whether the water is actually used. However, the base charge does not fully cover fixed costs so in effect, the rates are balanced to somewhat help low usage users.
Deputy Mayor Susanne Séguin raised the issue where seniors (and others) water their garden and are also charged for this as waste water yet it is absorbed into the ground and does not enter the waste water system. Susanne asked if this case had been considered. The short answer was that it’s common practice across Ontario to charge this way – not really helpful.
Suzanne also asked whether the Capital plan covered sufficient waste water capacity for upcoming developments. Are we in good shape? I think that the response was that the rate study depends on the Development Charges background study which is being looked into. That is, no definitive answer.
Rates planned – per month
|Block 1 (up to 22.73 m3) per m3||2020||$1.37||$1.54|
|Block 2 (up to 35 m3) per m3||2020||$1.71||$1.92|
If my personal usage is an indication, most users would be Block 1 only, even in summer with moderate watering of gardens.
According to the study, Cobourg’s current rates compare favourably with comparable municipalities. For example the average bill for a residence in Cobourg in 2020 was $747 per year and for Port Hope $1800.