Water Rates to increase – plus Stormwater Charge

Starting January 2023, the charge for water and wastewater will increase by an amount said to cover the cost.  In addition, in January, the cost of supplying stormwater drains will be charged directly to properties instead of being recovered by taxes.  Both these changes were previously approved by Council but now by-laws are needed to implement them and Council will be asked to do that at the December 12 Committee of the Whole meeting (COW – Governance has not yet changed).  Water rates will increase 7.2%, wastewater rates will increase 4.6% so that the average residential customer will pay an extra $48.82 per year for a total $884.90 per year. Charging directly for stormwater is a significant change and was discussed at length in a June 22 Council meeting – see report in Links below.

Stormwater and Sewer rates are intended to be 100% cost recovery and this has been calculated by a third party – in this case Watson & Associates Economists Ltd – and presented to Council in January 2021.  This year’s increase is the same as last year but adding a charge for stormwater is new.

The stormwater fee varies strongly depending on the property – specifically on its area, its type and its density per this table:

Property Type 2023 Stormwater Rate per Hectare (ha)
Commercial $1,809.44
Institutional $1,507.87
Industrial $1,608.39
Agricultural/vacant $402.10
Residential (low density) $904.72
Residential (medium density) $1,206.29
Residential (high density) $1,507.87

The report to Council by Director Laurie Wills says:

A typical residential lot size is approximately 0.2 of an acre or 0.08 ha so the average low density residential lot will be billed $72.38 in 2023 for stormwater services using this new charge whereas without this more equitable funding model to charge based on land use and size, the same household would be contributing $150 per year towards stormwater services as part of their property taxes.

Properties like the Mall with its large parking lot will pay significantly more and high density condos with a small footprint will pay less. It’s not known how the area of Condos will be calculated. Note that some inequities are flagged by taxpayers making comments on the stormwater article linked below.

Resources

Editor’s Note: See also Letter to the Editor on this subject.  The writer wants council to not implement the proposed new stormwater fee. 

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Sandpiper
10 months ago

Just Announced on CHEX News
Peterborough Taxes will increase by only 3 .1 %— NO Hidden Fees either
This was achieved by not reducing services to the Public
but by seeking Cost Cutting through poor spending Habits and
in non productive departments

Kathleen
11 months ago

I can’t believe that the Town wouldn’t think to offer at least a small cash incentive for those of us who have tried to mitigate storm runoff using gravel in place of pavement and rain barrels. It might also incentivize others. Hello? If any Council members are reading this.

Ursula
Reply to  Kathleen
11 months ago

If this town is serious about sustainability it would factor the percentage of permeable/green space into the the calculation. As it stands, there is no incentive to manage rainwater. It seems that ease of implementation is the primary factor in deciding the methodology, at the expense of the taxpayers.
I have a relatively small house on a large lot, most of it grass, shrubs, trees and vegetable garden and use four rain barrels. In spite of my efforts, I am already paying excessive water bills due to the sewage charges for the water I use in the garden during dry spells in the summer. I do not contribute to the runoff, but will once again be penalized for having a large green space.

Frank
Reply to  Ursula
11 months ago

Agree, large residential green space owners will be billed unfairly, in my case over $350. Hopefully this flawed plan will not pass.

Tucker
11 months ago

Please explain what you mean by “will pay an extra $48.82 per year for a total $884.90 per year” Which is it???

Tucker
Reply to  John Draper
11 months ago

Well John, I guess I’m stupid, I still don’t understand. If my bill, being an “average residential customer” will increase by $48.82 per year, then what does the $884.90 per year represent?

Tucker
Reply to  John Draper
11 months ago

Thank you for the explanation. My bills this year are $809.00 so with the added increase of 7.2 and 4.6 my bill next year should be approx. $904.46?? So that’s an increase of $95.46 or $7.95 per month, so one less dish wash and clothes wash a week, and I could re-coup my cost. Oh well, such is life, everything goes up.

Beatts
Reply to  Tucker
11 months ago

I’m with Tucker on this one. I think if you used the 2022 number of $836.08 while showing the difference and new price of $884.90 it wouldn’t be as confusing.

Disgruntled
11 months ago

I wonder what proportion of storm water runoff originates on town-owned property? It would be interesting to know how much property owners will be subsidizing the town for its runoff. Will this “town subsidy” be included in our runoff fees or will they be hidden in property taxes? And, what action is the town taking to reduce its own runoff burden?

Old Sailor
11 months ago

If a residential property has a large lot size doesn’t the MPAC assessment already take that into account. Which means the owner is already paying more realty tax based on the lot size. To also bump their water rate seems to be a double taxation. This new “user fee”idea is not well thought out and sets a bad precedent.

Waterdrummer
Reply to  Old Sailor
11 months ago

Not exactly. The MPAC is based on a variety of factors and attempts to value the combination of the house and lot together. A tiny tear-down on a large lot would have a lower MPAC assessment than a McMansion on a small lot.

However, I do agree that basing the fee on area alone seems like it wasn’t well thought-out since residential lots are mostly lawn/garden which absorbs the rain and doesn’t cause much run-off.

Andrew Allan
11 months ago

I agree with Ken.
My property only has a driveway that allows water runoff so for me to pay due to property size seems unfair.
Town needs to rethink this proposal so taxpayers do not bear another burden.

JimT
Reply to  Andrew Allan
11 months ago

Same here. Our property has a big back yard, but it all drains toward the back lot line and none of the water goes into any street. It just soaks into the sandy ground.

ben
11 months ago

The situation has not been explained very well. We currently pay for the storm water facilities out of general taxation. It is proposed that these facilities be moved to a user fee based on property size, a dubious base.

One question is simple how much do we pay for these facilities now and which line items of both operating and capital budgets do they sit in.

Obviously as a poster has pointed out the capital requirements are going to large in the future years and have to be paid for somehow.

So the present has to be compared to the future and what the shortfall will be. The next problem is how to finance the shortfall, if there is one?

Another question I have is why are we moving to a user pay as opposed to financing the facilities through general taxation?

I notice that nobody pushing this scheme is making the same claim as when we moved sewer services out of general taxation – “We will save money” – that proved to be a lie.

So bottom line – what is the shortfall between current maintenance costs and taxation raised in the budget lines. Surely prudent budgeteers in Public haven’t been running these facilities at a loss all these years? If there is a shortfall why?

Which brings us back to the basic question why are moving to a user pay system? And is that user pay system fair to the taxpayer?

PS this is probably one of the few topics that I can agree with Ken Strauss!!

Cobourg taxpayer
11 months ago

Another factor to consider re:the increase in water charges is the fact that based on a consultant report the town is going to build another water tower likely near the CCC. This is not the most economical way to supply water for the town of Cobourg a water reservoir is. A water tower has much less volume, requires freeze protection and large water pumps and needs to be repainted every decade or so to the tune of $ 1000000 as was spent on an existing water tower. Why in the world does Cobourg require another water tower???? Why not a water reservoir?? If there were qualified town engineers on staff they would know this. They’d also know how to operate the existing water reservoir properly so home appliances and pipes didn’t calcify and need to be replaced every few years.

Frenchy
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
11 months ago

I don’t think water supply is the primary reason to have water towers. Check this out: https://www.hkywater.org/education/i-didnt-know-that/why-water-towers

Bryan
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
11 months ago

CT & Frenchy,

Not all Towns have water towers. So why does Cobourg need another ?
There are alternatives as CT suggests. On surface or in-ground storage is less expensive to build and maintain. Pump technology has improved over the years and variable pressure pumps can be used to maintain water pressure.

https://www.thegazette.com/local-government/why-doesnt-iowa-city-have-a-water-tower-like-other-cities/

Why hasn’t staff and the consultants considered and presented alternatives?

Keep in mind the total cost of ownership. The water tower near the hospital cost $2.7M to paint, repair and refurbish. It was out of service for about 6 months.

Ken Strauss
11 months ago

John wrote:

Properties like the Mall with its large parking lot will pay significantly more and high density condos with a small footprint will pay less.

That is not what the Watson report (page 50) says:

“For the hypothetical large commercial customer, the annual stormwater bill would increase from $5,392.92 in 2021 to $17,984.20 in 2023 with a dedicated stormwater charge. If the Town was to support the proposed stormwater program through the current funding model (i.e., property taxes), the estimated stormwater charge for this customer would be $21,617.04 in 2023.”

A large commercial customer such as Walmart will pay $17,984.20 with the proposed scheme compared to $21,617.04 if nothing were changed. That is, Walmart will pay about 17% less with the proposed scheme than they would pay if stormwater management remained part of our property taxes.

The reduction for Walmart will obviously have to be made up by residential property owners.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ken Strauss
D R
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

Has By-Law 048-2022 been accepted, as read and passed on June 27 2022, or have changes been made? Is the Property Type and Runoff Coefficient as in passed on June 27 2022 still applicable?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  John Draper
11 months ago

I believe that the confusion is a result of Bylaw 048-2022 establishing a separate storm water management charge and the rate for which is defined by 047-2022. The rates defined by 047-2022 are increased significantly (5 to 10 times) in the bylaw currently being discussed and scheduled for approval on Monday.

D R
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

Have tried to find a draft copy of BY-LAW 091-2022 re Stormwater Charges as indicated on the Dec 19 Town Council Agenda without success, any suggestions

Ken Strauss
Reply to  John Draper
11 months ago

John, the actual rates are not at that link. DR probably wants to look at https://pub-cobourg.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=25955 which shows the proposed rates. He will also need to read https://www.cobourg.ca/en/town-hall/resources/Legislative-Services/Bylaws-2022/048-2022-Adopt-Stormwater-Services-Charge.pdf to understand what is being proposed.

D R
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

Thanks John and Ken, I’m glad you are able to navigate the website to locate this information.

D R
Reply to  D R
11 months ago

I’ll assume I’m missing something, I see no Schedule A attached to BY-LAW 091-2022 ? The Stormwater Rate Forecast for 2023 is much higher than the 2022 Rate attached to BY-LAW 047-2022. BY-LAW 048-2022 does not have a Rate attached to it. Has there been any open discussion why the 2023 residential Rate appears to be 7 x’s plus higher than the 2022 rate yet item 13.3.3 for the Dec 19 council meeting has “Action Recommended” – that council adopt BY-LAW 091-2022. I sincerely hope that the presentations to council under items 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 will give council reasons to review and not take the “Action Recommended” at this time.

mrs bigley
Reply to  Ken Strauss
10 months ago

this possibly has been mentioned in the long list of replies – l am wondering why l and many others should have to pay this additional tax – as my area does not have storm sewers – and most have large lots and mature trees – hence the runoff to the ditches is very small – possibly just possibly the powers that be – should think about this extra tax prior to having it included in our taxes – enough is enough

ben
Reply to  mrs bigley
10 months ago

“possibly just possibly the powers that be – should think about this extra tax prior to having it included in our taxes – enough is enough”

They have thought about it and decided by means of the bylaw NOT to include the water rate increase in your taxes. So Council thinks you should be happy only to have a 5% tax increase. The other 6% is on your water bill never to be seen by Council!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
10 months ago

Also, Mrs. Bigley, for further info read Ben’s excellent letter at https://cobourginternet.com/home/letters-to-the-editor

Bryan
Reply to  ben
10 months ago

Ben,
I agree with most of your comment and Letter to the Editor.
However, you wrote: “…bylaw NOT to include the water rate increase in your taxes. ” Water and sewer have been charged to residents as a user fee for years this is not new.

The Storm Water Management (SWM) fee is a new user fee billed to residents on their Town utility (Elec, Water, Sewer, SWM) bill.

“… The other 6% is on your water bill never to be seen by Council….”. Not so. The storm water management (SWM) accounts, including the user fee are included in the 2023 budgets:

Ops: PDF pages 118/253 to 124/253
Capital: PDF pages 1/122, 40/122, 41/122 and 45/122

Last edited 10 months ago by Bryan
Ben
Reply to  Bryan
10 months ago

Thanks Brian I will check it out

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
10 months ago

Bryan, perhaps I’m misreading things but the $1,638,627 expected from the stormwater management fee is listed as revenue (manna from heaven?) rather than as a revenue requirement that contributes to the total levy to be collected from property taxes.

Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
10 months ago

Ken,

It is revenue, the same as other user fees: parking, marina slip rental, VPC site fees, CCC user fees.

Of interest, is the $577K MECP grant (cap budget PDF page 45/122) This results in a SWM surplus which is carried forward in the reserve for future use. Or, the 2023 SWM user fee could have been lower and not have the surplus

Further, there is a $37.5K contribution to “vehicle” reserve. Does SWM have a vehicle(s) or is this just a crafty way of funding a works dept. reserve?

In fairness, I should also note that there is a $5K charge-back for work done on the County’s behalf.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
10 months ago

Bryan, I understand your point but the other “user fees” that you mentioned — trailer park usage, CCC user fees, parking fees — are both discretionary and the user receives something of value in exchange for paying the fee. The SWM fee is mandatory and fixed regardless of receiving a benefit. It is a tax by any reasonable definition. It should not be treated as free money that we can spend without increasing the levy.

Read my Letter to the Editor for a few additional thoughts on this subject (https://cobourginternet.com/home/letters-to-the-editor)

Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
10 months ago

Ken,

I agree for the most part. The SWM fee is a tax pretending to be a user fee.
The SWM rev, exp and cap is part of the budget, therefore under the scrutiny of Council. The SWM wish list should be carefully reviewed by Council (dream on?? perhaps) and the SWM fee adjusted as needed.

Note that for 2023, the SWM fee could be lower if the surplus that resulted from the MECP grant had not been carried forward in reserve.

Last edited 10 months ago by Bryan
ben
Reply to  Bryan
10 months ago

Bryan the point should be made that the reserve contribution for this year is higher than the next year’s. The Capital budget for the SWM must be reviewed and adjusted to reduce the contribution. For instance push back the works on the Garrett Pond for a year.

Bryan
Reply to  ben
10 months ago

Ben,

The new factor is the $577K MECP grant which reduces the $1.3M 2023 capital requirement. The 2023 SWM user fee should be reduced from $1.6M SWM user fee to $1.1M. This will reduce the SWM surplus carryforward to the SWM reserve to about $50K.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
10 months ago

Bryan, before you conclude that the SWM fees can be reduced you need to account for the numerous errors in the Watson report. Things like classing cemeteries the same as Walmart’s parking lot, collecting stormwater fees from our marina and many others. Taken together these errors will reduce the fees collected by over $250K. The needed $1.1M will be close to what is actually collected with the current fee rates.

Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
10 months ago

Ken,

The $577K MECP grant increases the funding available to pay for the $1.6M SWM costs (OPS & Cap). If the estimated SWM fee ($1.6M) is overstated by $250K+ due to errors, the actual yield would be lower, resulting in a lower 2023 SWM surplus to be carried forward to reserve. The 2023 fee reduction that I suggested would also be $250K lower.

The net result, as you suggest, may be that the 2023 SWM revenue requirement could be met with the current rates applied to the corrected classification and MPAC lot size data