Council recently gave first reading to a bylaw that will see many utility rates increase in 2019.
Bylaw 393.2, which will go to second and third reading in the New Year saw the following changes:
- The fixed water rate remains at $26.22 per month and the per unit consumption rate remains at $2.47 per cubic.
- The fixed waste water rate will remain at $20.00 per month while the per unit consumption rate will increase from $2.15 to $2.65 per cubic meter of effluent.
- The residential solid waste rate will increase by $3.90 to $31.76 per month.
- The apartment (four units or more) solid waste rate will increase by $2.70 to $19.97 per unit per month.
- The modular home park rates will increase by $2.70 to $24.49 per month.
- The commercial rates will increase by $6.90 to $116.79 per month, per bin and additional cardboard pickup will increase by $6.90 to $106.79 per month.
- Any unscheduled pickups will also be $58.39 per pickup for commercial waste and $53.39 for cardboard.
- The cost of the green yard waste bins will cost residents approximately $33 per residential household, per year.
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City of Lacombe Operations and Planning Director Jordan Thompson said increases to the utility rates represent an increased service level.
“The utilities are self funded, so the expenses have to be offset by the revenue generated,” he said. “The only way for utilities to generate revenue is through the rates.
“When expenses go up, the utility rates in turn go up.”
While most utility rates went up in cost, City administration was able to keep water rates the same due to a water reserve. Much of the other increases were expected due to the City’s involvement with regional commissions and budgeted for.
“The City of Lacombe is part of two utility service commissions, so a large part of these fees associated with the utility rates is related to participation in those commissions,” Thompson said. “The waste water commission, for example, just came online — so that is something that is a new system the City of Lacombe is a part of and for some time we knew there would be rate increases associated with the connection to a regional system.”
Thompson said regional commissions allow the City to be certain water is treated to meet Alberta Environment standards and also means the City can invest less in updating their own infrastructure.
“Those utilities are providing services that are needed in the community and the Budgets for them are done in a transparent way. They are scrutinized by Council during their Budget process and Council can set policy to alter levels of service,” he said.
Councillor Chris Ross during the meeting questioned whether the City of Lacombe should look into their solid waste rates to ensure the City is competitive — especially considering many other private commercial solid waste companies are operating within the City.
“I think with solid waste, we see lots of waste bins that are commercial that are other companies, meaning we have an obligation to research why we are not competitive,” Ross said. “There is an incredible amount of lost revenue and we have to research how to be on an even playing field so we can create revenue for existing solid waste management.”
Currently, the City’s strategic planning had a solid waste review scheduled for 2021, however Ross suggested – and Council agreed — that it should be moved ahead on the timeline.
“That shouldn’t wait until 2021 because finances affect Budget and you want fairness,” Ross said. “We want to expedite that review because those dollars affect Budget. Hopefully we can resolve it in 2019 so that we can go into 2020. This affects taxpayers.”
Thompson said Administration is able to address solid waste in 2019.
“What we have said is we would bring back a plan to see what that would like during Spring amendments in April,” he said. “That would allow us time to think about that and make sure we have the right moving-forward plan that meets Council’s objectives but also ensures we have the capacity to engage a plan earlier than 2021.”
Ross added, “I think Administration has accepted our concerns that we need to react faster — especially when it comes to finances and efficiencies.”