Greenwood city council voted Monday, Nov. 22, to raise municipal utility rates for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city will once again tack on late fees to delinquent ratepayers, while creating a new rate schedule for Fort Greenwood.
Homeowners can expect to pay $13 and $9 more in annual water and sewer rates starting in the new year, restoring a projected $10,000 in revenue, according to Chief Administrative Officer Marcus Lebler.
The city froze rate increases in 2020 and again this year in attempts to curb living expenses during the pandemic. This was sustainable so long as inflation rates remained at historic lows, Lebler explained in a Nov. 16 memo to council. This is no longer the case, according to Lebler and Statistics Canada, which last month reported a nearly five per cent year-over-year increase in the Consumer Price Index.
Inflation aside, Greenwood’s water and sewer systems cannot run indefinitely on an operational cost basis. “City utilities must remain self-funding at a level to cover operating costs and generate a surplus,” he wrote, highlighting that city bylaws call for annual utility bumps based on inflation.
The city’s reserve balances have slumped to the point where Lebler said council would have to borrow money and apply for grant funding to keep both aging systems working.
Council also voted to bring back fee surcharges on outstanding utility bills, having suspended that measure for the past two years. Charging ratepayers an extra two and a half per cent on unpaid bills every fiscal quarter will restore $2,000 in annual revenue, Lebler said.
Finally, council voted for slight rate increases billed to the city’s de facto RV park, Fort Greenwood. Lebler explained that while Fort Greenwood is zoned as parkland, RV residents own their own lots. It doesn’t make sense to bill utility users at the previous campground rate, which council changed to a special fee schedule based on apartment and secondary suite rates.
A 2007 council memo had recommended that people in Fort Greenwood should pay residential utility rates, but Lebler noted that the area isn’t zoned for residential use, either. Fort Greenwood needed its own, slightly lesser rate schedule, he explained.