This year’s water and sewer rates are firmly in place but just the other night, city council met with a group of consultants to figure out a new pay structure for the coming years.
The presentation highlighted many aspects including consumption by demographic and rates as they exist now before transitioning to ideas for how rates could be handled in the future.
Mayor Kathy Moore said a new rate plan based off consumption is more along the lines of what the city is looking for.
This may seem simple at first, but with 80 per cent of the water system having a fixed cost, there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to pricing.
“You want water and sewage to pay for themselves, you don’t want to be going into general tax revenue to support them. When you’re doing that you have to consider not only the cost of the work, but your infrastructure charges,” Moore said. “Things like when will you have to replace pipes and the like. After all that it becomes much bigger.”
Mayor Moore is thinking not only about the costs in the now, but those of the future because it’s an ongoing renewal process.
She explained that this results in a new way of how people are charged for water and will likely result in an increase in water charges.
“We’ve been undercharging because we haven’t taken all those costs into effect. The question now is, ‘how do you do that and not break the bank?’”
The consultants have looked at all of that and worked out water usage, projections and patterns and have come up with several proposals. One being the current rate structure, but the rates go up.
Moore said that is not going to fly and another solution must be met.
The type of plan the city would like to see is one based more off of consumption rates rather than the customer.
As of now rates depend on whether the customer is classified as residential, commercial, etc.
Moore said, “there’s only about a 20 per cent variable so it doesn’t leave a lot of room for savings. The price of the system is the price of the system.”
That’s kind of a bummer, because we wanted to get a pricing structure in place where if you don’t use a lot of water, your bill will go down”
With such a high percentage of fixed cost, it becomes very difficult to have a rate system based off consumption.
Thankfully rates are already set so more time can be spent on ironing out the details. Moore applauded the cooperation of the consultants saying most are set in their ways but the ones that came before council arrived ready and willing to listen and adapt their gameplan.
Public input came the following night and again the main concern was consumption rate in relation to how much the customer is charged.
A prominent concern from business owners was the burden of payment was being shifted from residential to the business community.
“There’s no conclusion to this story yet and there will certainly be more public engagement,” Moore assured.
The full presentation can be found on the city of Rossland website. Council will be holding a discussion on the 2015-2019 Draft Financial Plan for the water and sewer funds on Wednesday night.