Water/Wastewater and User Fees first on Council’s 2015 Budget Agenda

budgetgraphicThe Town of Fort Erie Council entered into its first round of 2015 Budget deliberations on Wednesday night with a review of the Water and Wastewater budget as well as the Town’s User Fees.

Staff presented details of the 2015 Water and Wastewater Budget, which included the Town’s system receiving a 100% inspection rating on its report card from the Ministry of Environment. The meter change out program, which has seen over 60% of households in Fort Erie equipped with the new radio frequency meters, will also lead to a reduction in meter reading costs, improved customer service and greater accuracy. Operational challenges included the legislative compliance requirements that dictate full cost recovery, which results in a separate fee structure and extensive certification of staff performing specific water-related duties. These requirements are provincially mandated without financial assistance to offset the additional costs to residents.

The anticipated overall water/wastewater rate increase for 2015 is 2.06%. This means a total monthly increase of $2.10 for an average household that uses 16 cubic metres of water per month.

“Staff provided a detailed overview of the risks and opportunities that impact one of our most valued services. It is important to residents that we provide a reliable, safe drinking water system while at the same time maintain the infrastructure that we have in the ground”, stated Mayor Wayne Redekop. “It is also important that the measures we put in place today keep rates at an even lower increase for the next four years”.

Also on the agenda was the 2015 Fees and Charges report provided by staff.  Most of Council’s discussion was aimed at increases to development-related fees. Certain municipal fees have legislative requirements for cost recovery, such as the collection of fees under The Planning Act. Staff recommendations to increase building fees during past budget deliberations were not approved by the previous Council. This has resulted in recommendations to increase the majority of building fees to try and bring fees more in line with comparator municipalities and also ensure that the resident tax payer does not continue to subsidize building-related development.  The new fee structure provides for deposits for legal and engineering expenses related to development to be collected at the time of application, similar to what takes place in other municipalities, rather than be collected at the end of the process. These deposits will then be deducted and/or rebated from the full fees payable at the end of the project.

“Municipal Councils are often faced with the difficult balancing act between pricing services on a cost-recovery basis and subsidizing services through the general tax levy” noted Mayor Redekop. “It’s important to note that these fees are not new charges being imposed on developers who should expect that our staff will be working efficiently on expediting projects that are ready to proceed”.

The 2014 Cemeteries Master Plan identified that the Town’s fees were 28% below the regional average, which results once again in the resident taxpayer subsidizing a portion of cemetery services. The Cemetery Board has recommended a phased-in approach to increase cemetery rates by 5% per year over a 5 year period in order to bridge the gap between cost recovery and subsidization of the costs associated with burials and interments.

The majority of fee increases are based strictly on the Consumer Price Index of 2.6%, although some planning fees are projected to rise by 10% as part of the cost recovery program.

The Town’s Budget process continues:

 

  • January 28, 2015 – Capital Budget and 10 Year Forecast
  • February 9, 2015 – Water and Wastewater Budget and User Fee By-law
  • February 18, 2015 – Library and Economic Development and Tourism Corporation
  • March 4, 2015 – General Levy Operating Budget

 

For further information and to view 2015 Budget presentations, visit us on the web at www.forterie.on.ca and click on the Budget banner. All Council-in-Budget Committee meetings are also broadcast live on-line.

For more information, contact
Jonathan Janzen, CA
Director of Financial Services
905.871.1600 Ext. 2300

 

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