It’s going to cost residents in Charlottetown a bit more to turn on the taps and flush the toilet.
City council unanimously approved a 32-cent-per-day increase in the water and sewer rates, effective April 1, during Wednesday’s annual city budget address.
That means residents will now pay $577.34 per year compared to the $510.89 they paid in 2012, the last time rates were increased. Now, meters came into play after 2012 so that would have lowered the average bill to $460. Factor in Wednesday’s 32-cent increase and you get $577.34.
The Water and Sewer Utility — a separate independent corporation from the city corporation — started the 2018 fiscal period with a $673,954 carry-over deficit and ended the fiscal period this year with a projected deficit of $1.2 million, requiring the rate adjustment.
Over the last few years, water meters were added to all but 200 homes in Charlottetown. The city sold residents on the fact that they could help conserve water and some people would even pay less for what they used.
It also meant revenues were down because people were using less.
Ambitious capital projects
Coun. Terry Bernard, chairman of the finance committee, said since the last rate hike the city has used that revenue to take care of some ambitious capital projects, such as the multi-million-dollar Brighton storm sewer separation project, replacing aging underground infrastructure, creating a new wellfield in Miltonvale to take the pressure off the Winter River watershed (which at the time was the city’s only source of water) and now faces a $13-million expansion to the wastewater treatment plant on Riverside Drive to handle Stratford’s sludge.
“At some point, you have to start paying it back, and the rates being stagnant for as long as they were, it was time for an increase,’’ Bernard said.
Peter Kelly, chief administrative officer with the city, added that they are also faced with increased payroll costs and increased repair costs on top of the already mentioned factors.
The rate Charlottetown residents will pay is still the second lowest rate of any municipality in the Maritimes. Only Truro and Cornwall customers pay less. Residents in Saint John, N.B., for example, pay $1,163 per year while those in Summerside pay $734.
Projects are also underway to eliminate the East Royalty lagoon and increase the capacity of the treatment plant on Riverside Drive.
But, with increased capital investment comes increased operational costs.
The Town of Stratford recently increased its water and sewer rate. Starting July 1, water for single-family dwellings will go from $73.55 to $75.340 per quarter while consumption charge for metered water will go from 0.8679 to 0.88885 per cubic metre. Sewer services for a single-family dwelling will increase from $108 to $121 per quarter, while the consumption charge for metered sewer will go from $1.2744 to $1.4278 per cubic metre. The increase will help pay for a pumping station and delivery system.
And, last year the Town of Cornwall hit residents with a $32 hike in their water and sewer bills to account for a number of projects, including a new lift station and wellfield exploration study.