This Week At City Hall: Water Rate Rises (Maybe, Probably), Committee Appointments

Oh man, the Riders won. Tomorrow’s council meeting is going to be insufferable….

Monday, November 22
CITY COUNCIL (5:30 pm): Have you bought a low-flush toilet, yet? Yeah, me neither. That line item in our household budget just got eaten up by frickin’ car repairs. (I so want to murder that Camry right about now.) Looks like we’d better start squirreling away again for that dual-flush throne because, come January 1, water utility rates are very likely going shoot up to the tune of about nine per cent this year. And they’ll probably be going up by that much again in 2012 and 2013.

That adds up to a pretty steep climb by the end of  three years. But, if this gets your dander up — as it clearly has the commenters over at the Leader Post — these rate changes are just being brought forward at Monday’s meeting. The final decision will be made when council gathers on December 20.

So you still have time to express your concerns with your elected rep.

What’s the reason for the call for increases? The report cites several including rising costs of engineering and construction, the unprecedented expansion of the city and aging infrastructure that’s in serious need of an overhaul. And, don’t forget, we have to make some massive investments in our waste-water treatment facilities thanks to some changes in federal regulations.

Speaking of which, while the report talks a lot about all the capital investments we’ll be making with that nine-per-cent per year increase, more needs to be done to cover the infrastructure improvements we need to do over the long term. Here’s a sampler of choice lines from the report:

“While the capital investment proposed for 2011 to 2015 is significant, the long term requirements of the system will continue to put pressure on rate and debt requirements.”

“A significant amount of capital investment has been deferred to 2016 and beyond, to limit the total maximum debt to approximately $173 million.”

“While discussions continue with the federal and provincial governments on the new regulations and financial impact of the wastewater treatment plant expansion to meet those regulations, there is no certainty that such discussions will result in a shared funding agreement. Should no substantial funding be provided by other levels of government, the City will need to re-evaluate the proposed programs and budgets for 2012-2015 for further possible deferrals in capital investments, increased utility rates, alternative funding/delivery mechanism, and/or potential reductions in level of service to utility customers.”

Not sure if any of this will be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting but will report back if anything interesting happens.

Of course, there’s lots more on the agenda. Updates to the Winter Maintenance Policy for instance. And appointments of council members to committees. And a water supply contract with the Rural Municipality of Sherwood. And increases to what you’ll be paying for improvements to city infrastructure adjacent to your property. All things that came up in more detail in last week’s column.

Beyond all that, the appointment of citizen members to city committees will be coming forward for ratification.

If you want to read all the names of the lucky appointees, you’ll find the bulk of them in Appendix A of report CR10-131. And seeing as you can’t cut and paste text from city reports, I’m not going to retype them all here. (Because it’s one in the morning and that would be insane.) There are also miscellaneous other committee appointments that are up for consideration (like various business improvement district boards and suchlike) and you can read about them in CR10-128, CR10-129, CR10-130, CR10-132, and CR10-134. All of which you can find here.

Wednesday, November 24

And that’s it for another week at your city hall. For complete reports and agendas check the city’s lovely website.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

7 thoughts on “This Week At City Hall: Water Rate Rises (Maybe, Probably), Committee Appointments”

  1. Pardon?!?!? 9% water rate increases for three years…again! We just finished doing a set of three of these. If you compound the previous 3 years with the proposed three that is like a 67% increase in our water bills. WTF!

    Please name me any other service that would even allow this level of increases and get away with it (try to picture SaskPower or SaskEnergy asking for that kind of increase). Come on everyone, it is time to get the pitchforks and storm City Hall. Now where is my torch?

  2. I wonder if developments contributing to the unprecedented expansion should be taxed a little heavier instead this new infrastructure simply being subsidized by everyone as per usual. If you want to live on the fringe, it comes with costs.

  3. I was at a Council meeting 2 or 3 years ago where the city doubled the per hectare rate charged to developers to install infrastructure in greenfield developments. Dundee was in accelerated development mode with the first stage of Harbour Landing then, and V-P Tom Shepherd threw a hissy fit and was ordered by Mayor Fiacco to leave the chamber. It was great theatre, but all the hike did was put Regina’s rate in the same ballpark as pretty much every other city in North America. Until then, the city had been subsidizing suburban development pretty significantly

    The mantra now is “growth pays for growth”. That might be true, although a lot of numbers including the provision of transit, fire and police services would have to be crunched to find out. But does growth also pay for its future maintenance and eventual replacement? In a place like Regina, with challeging soil and climate conditions, even new infrastructure starts to break down pretty quick. The more sprawl we allow, the greater the infrastructure burden becomes.

  4. Exactly – considering that the infrastructure summit will be hosted by Regina, I suggest that seriously examining infill is a step in the direction of planning and financing into the future (because it builds on existing infrastructure that is going to require upgrades anyway)

  5. I wonder how much time things like infill or, say, municipal growth boundaries will get at this summit? I worry it will be a lot of talk about alternative funding models and such. Have you glanced at the list of speakers?

    The keynote will be delivered by an expert in accrual accounting.

  6. Re: expansion and rates

    I agree that new areas of town should pay more to cover the construction costs, but also the rate system needs an adjustment.

    The current consumption rates are so low the water is almost free (ie: about $0.001 per liter if my memory is correct). To reduce upgrades on the system the consumption part of the rates should be increased by a factor of 10 and then drop off the fixed rates to balance everyones bill down to just slightly higher than today’s levels. At least at that point it would actually pay to conserve some water.

  7. I totally agree that the price should go up as well. Water is a precious resource that people waste without thinking because it is not priced to reflect it’s value.

    I think setting physical boundaries to growth, like Portland did, is so necessary. I really believe that the City would see some really amazing development happen, and a lot of creativity and vibrancy come from it. Set our current boundary and leave it for the next 5-10 years and see what happens.

    Also – accounting will not save the world.

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