Gravity could be forgiven as water and sewer rates could continue to climb uphill after a city report on the proposed utility budget has recommended another annual increase to the services.
A report from the city’s Finance department is suggesting a two per cent increase to the water rates charged city residents — along with a similar two per cent rise in sewer fees — to help pay for the costs related to several major projects on the horizon in 2023.
City chief financial officer, Chris Jury, said the utility budget proposed for 2023 continues to cover a lot of ground with capital projects, and the bill needs to be paid for that laundry list.
“What we have had in our plan for quite a few years is sort of that two per cent increase for water and one-and-a-half wastewater,” he said in a special budget meeting of council on Nov. 14.
“For this year we were proposing to go with a two per cent and a two per cent” increase.
The 2023 capital projects included the Sewer Treatment Plant (STP) maintenance ($225,000), RBC lifecycle maintenance ($550,000), lift stations ($200,000) and a Liquid Waste Management Plan ($165,000).
On the water delivery end, 2023 capital projects include completion of phase three of the secondary source pump station ($200,000), phase four of the finished water storage ($1.35 million), the reservoir dam inspection ($67,000) and watermain replacements ($600,000).
Jury said the extra half of a per cent difference for wastewater comes out as $3 million when the city gets to the end of that wastewater treatment facility upgrade (or replacement) project. It could be $3 million less in borrowing, $3 million more in reserves, or it could just be a contingency piece that adds up over time, he added.
“I think we’ve done a good job of keeping those reserves, and fueling those reserves, and that we are able to do these projects,” Jury continued, “but also being conscious of the fact that we are in unusual times with inflation and what an impact that amount can make as we look out to the horizon as we shift to the two per cent, two per cent instead of the two per cent and one-and-a-half.”
The 2022 utility rate (combined) for a single family dwelling in Nelson was $1,089, while the proposed increase for 2023 would bump the figure by $22 per year to $1,111.
On the commercial end, the utility increase effect on a commercial restaurant would creep from $3,202 to $3,266 — a proposed rise of $64.
Coun Jesse Woodward said the work outlined for both utilities was needed, and somehow the city needed to pay for it.
“So just having some good communication around that (increase) would really help to soften some of the blow on what it means to all of us,” he said.