Wheatland County council has voted in favour of increasing utility rates for water use within the county by seven per cent in each of 2024 and 2025.

County administration presented to council, looking to obtain direction from council on their desire for any utility rate changes for the 2024 year during the Oct. 17 regular meeting of council.

Prior rate changes to water use within the county were made effective Nov. 1, 2022, which included a general increase to most rates of 15 per cent, as well as adjustment to the Muirfield rates to be consistent with other communities. 

At the time, the overall philosophy of council during the prior process was for movement towards consistent and similar rates across the county, to address inflationary pressures, and to set the groundwork for reduced subsidization by non-profit revenue sources. 

Administration presented council with three recommendations regarding scenarios for utility rates in 2024. In all cases, the assumptions are that all rates other than those related to debenture repayment would increase by the same percentage, similar to the 2022 rates.

The first scenario was for council to leave rates unchanged in 2024. The implications of this option would be that the net costs of water and wastewater function are increasingly subsidized by other funding sources, such as municipal property taxes.

The second scenario suggested to increase rates according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 2011 to 2023, which would have yielded a three per cent increase. Administration suggested that option could be used as a reference metric to provide an increase in 2024. This option would also result in a higher subsidy rate than what was observed in previous years. 

Lastly, administration proposed a 15 per cent increase in order to keep the subsidization from other revenue sources. 

For council’s reference, it was noted by administration that a one per cent increase in water and wastewater rates would provide a net change of approximately $10,000 for the county. 

Coun. Donna Biggar motioned that council direct administration to bring back a report with more information on the debenture for Carseland/Speargrass and cost sharing for wastewater infrastructure utilization with Muirfield. The motion was passed unanimously by council following a discussion period.

Coun. Scott Klassen motioned that council direct administration to utilize the seven per cent increases for 2024 and 2025, as well as to update the master schedule of fees bylaw. Following discussion, this motion was also passed unanimously by council. 

More information regarding specific numbers and rates is available via the county’s Oct. 17 regular meeting agenda, as well as online through the publicly available meeting recording on YouTube. 

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 26, 2023 at 01:00

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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