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Water bills climb $25 per year on average

The relentless drip, drip, drip of price increases continues as water and sewer rates go up across the board, resulting in an annual increase of slightly more than $2 per month for the average household in Fort Erie.

Town council endorsed the water budget Wednesday night recommending an average increase of 2.06 per cent.

Base rates for both water and sewer will increase approximately one per cent. Metered rates will increase 6.15 per cent for water and 1.8 per cent for sewer.

The new proposed monthly base rates are $24.52 for water and $40.25 sewer. Metered rates are $1.192 for water and $1.261 for sewer.

Based on usage of 16 cubic metres per month, the average bill will come out to $104.02 per month.

Forecasts for the next five years call for approximately 1.1 per cent increase each year.

Last year’s usage was well short of the budget and caused the Town to see a $2 million shortfall from its anticipated billing revenue of $16.4 million while regional treatment charges were $754,000 short of budget, leaving the Town scrambling to cover the difference of $1.2 million.

More than $500,000 in material and services were not expended but not itemized in the report which council approved Wednesday. Other variances in 2014 are also not explained, including an $80,000 reduction in debt servicing charges and $90,000 in wages and benefits.

Large revenue shortfalls have been the norm the past few years — $3.2 million in 2013 and $2.6 million in 2012 — mitigated in part by reductions in Regional treatment charges.

The variances are caused by weather. A wet year reduces water consumption and metered volumes for which customers are billed but wastewater volumes do not decline as much.

The council strategy has been to develop budgets with minimal rate increases and hope it doesn’t rain.

Last year, the Town consumed 2.75 million cubic metres of water and processed 2.49 million cubic metres of wastewater. (One cubic metre is 1000 litres and just slightly less than 220 Imperial gallons.) Staff had estimated 3.13 million cubic metres of water consumption and 2.75 million cubic metres of wastewater.

This year’s budget is based on a forecast of 2.99 million cubic metres of water consumption and 2.64 million wastewater treatment.

Overall, the budgeted revenue requirement will increase by $141,000 over last year.

A new staff position will be added — a Water/Wastewater Compliance Coordinator — at an annual cost of $87,082 in wages and benefits to manage the Town’s conformance with provincial regulations.

On top of annual two per cent increase in wages for union and non-union staff in the Town, premiums for WSIB are also increasing, as are general insurance costs, for a total of more than $80,000.

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  1. Ryan | Jan 15, 2015 | Reply

    Considering that the consumer price index for 2014 had an inflation rate of 1.95%, I’m OK with the 2.06% increase on my water bill.

    Also considering a new position is being created, I think only a 2.06% increase is excellent for those who manage this budget.

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