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Newmarket residential water rates set for 5.71% hike
Dec. 11, 2014
By Chris Simon

Your water rates could rise next year.

Newmarket council will likely approve a 5.71-per-cent - about $52.20 for the average residence consuming 200 cubic metres of water annually - bump in residential water and wastewater rates during a meeting Monday night. If passed, the new rates will come into effect Jan. 1.

The increase is blamed on an eight-per-cent increase in York Region treatment and distribution charges, a decrease in consumption, the need to build reserves and costs related to increased system flushing, among other reasons. However, the jump is actually less than what is suggested in the town's water and wastewater financial plan.

"Fifty-six-per-cent of your bill is actually water; the other 44 per cent is for servicing, what's in the ground and the cost of maintaining it," Councillor Dave Kerwin said. "It's really complex but we're not using as much water as we used to and we have to flush those lines. Water is everything. Without it nothing can survive. (We need) to make sure you're getting safe, quality water."

Under the new rates, the town's basic monthly charge of $28 will not be affected. However, consumption fees for water and wastewater will increase by four and 14 per cent, respectively.

Industrial, commercial and institutional water rates may also increase by 7.92 per cent on average, or about $217.94.

Though consumption dropped by more than 15 per cent between 2003 and 2013 - largely because of conservation efforts, new building standards and more efficient technology - the system must be self-sufficient, so it still requires substantial operational and maintenance funding.

"If this trend continues, it's not like we can divest ourselves of capital," Councillor Joe Sponga said.

However, resident Paul Jolie is not buying the explanation.

"I'd like to stress my disappointment," he said, addressing councillors at a committee of the whole meeting earlier this week. "There's nothing fair when people who conserve water see their rates go up. There should be no fixed rates. Fixed charges increase the bill of those who work hard to conserve, while charging less to big users. Utilities have been able to operate for a hundred years without a 100-per-cent guaranteed revenue stream. The best tool we have to encourage conservation is pricing."

The fixed rate is necessary because it keeps a stable stream of cash flowing into the system, town financial services director Mike Mayes said.

"With a targeted fixed rate ... we can help ensure fairness and equity by ensuring residents' ability to pay," he said, in a report to council members. "It creates a quick litmus test ensuring costs are affordable for low-income families. Meanwhile, the target fixed rate is sufficiently large to provide the revenue predictability desired ... to ensure operating costs are covered on a year-to-year basis."