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Town gets lucky on water rates

Thanks to a million dollar reduction in Regional treatment charges, residential water customers in Fort Erie will see no increase on their water bills in 2014.

[Originally published Jan. 7, 2014]

While the base rate is knocked down a little, the volumetric rate is notched up to even out the saving for the average household user.

. . . continued

The Town estimates the average household uses 16 cubic metres per month and will pay $101.92 per month.

The combined base charge to customers will be reduced by $1 per month, and the volumetric rate will be increased by about 7 cents per cubic metre, or about $1 a month for the average user.

A one per cent per year increase is forecast for the next four years if usage and other variables remain constant.

The base charge will be $64.12 (a decrease of $1), and the volumetric rate will be $2.36 (or 7 cents more) per cubic metre.

A cubic metre is 1,000 litres. A low flush toilet uses six litres. A standard shower head uses 15 litres per minute. A splash pad in use from May to September uses 4,300 cubic metres or 4.3 million litres.

By far, the greatest impact on the Town’s $16.3 million water and sewer budget is a $1.1 million reduction in regional treatment costs.

The Town will receive more than $500,000 credit from the Region because it overestimated projected sewer flows for 2012. Last year, the Town was hit with a charge of $250,000.

The Region bases its projections on a three-year average and then squares up with the local municipalities two years later for the actuals. Another half million dollar credit will be issued for 2015.

Treasurer Helen Chamberlain noted the big swing in Regional treatment charges presents a big risk in the future if the Town experiences more precipitation than normal which will increase sewer flows but reduce water consumption and revenue.

She recommended the savings be poured into a rate stabilization reserve to cover off that eventuality and to refund the amount used last year to pay the treatment charge deficit.

The Region is also reducing its charges for sewer treatment resulting in another $320,000 saving that will be added to the reserve.

Debt charges are reduced by $138,000 because 2003 debentures for various watermain installations have matured. Debt will continue to decline in 2015.

Customers might also be thankful that no huge construction project is forecast  that would hike their bills. A sewer replacement on Waterloo Street is the biggest project, valued at $900,000. Nine other projects are budgeted for preliminary engineering and design or construction bringing the total total $2.1 million.

The second largest item is $500,000 to replace water meters with new radio transmitting devices that will enable remote reading in a fraction of the time of manual reading.

Meter reading cost will increase by $21,000 through council’s decision last summer to reinstate monthly readings, but it is expected to decline as more of the radio meters come on stream. About half the town has been converted now.

Operationally, there is a small increase of $56,000 for the entire department budget, including a projected one per cent increase in wages.

The union collective agreement expired at the end of 2013.


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