This past Monday evening at the regular meeting of Kimberley City Council, Mayor Don McCormick said that there had been a flood of calls to City Hall in recent days due to confusion over utility rate increases and the announced cancelling of the a new parcel tax for water and sewer.
Utility rates did still rise in 2015 and the cancellation of the parcel tax does not affect that increase, says McCormick.
“The utility increase of $25 per quarter was approved in 2014. It is a small operating increase and then the cost of fleet replacement was moved in. And rightly so. That wasn’t new money. It used to come from the general fund. I don’t know that it was explained properly. The increase reflects the cost of the utility.”
The increase, which came into effect on January 1, 2015 means quarterly utility rates are now $186.45.
The new $107 parcel tax for water and sewer, which was also approved by previous Council, was over and above those increases. The intent was to begin to put away funds for infrastructure replacement.
“The $107 parcel tax was deemed to be an increase necessary for us to stop the bleeding,” McCormick said. “At the time a parcel tax was chosen but after further deliberation, adding a $107 tax seemed to be too much burden and the parcel tax is not really the right vehicle. So we’re not going with a parcel tax.”
However, Council still has to have a means to begin to save for infrastructure replacement. That will come through phased in utility rate increases.
“The parcel tax will be replaced with an increase in utility rates of $84 over three years. The rate increases will begin in 2016,” McCormick said.
“Our general thinking is that utility rates themselves need to fund it. They’ve been underfunded for years. If you look at comparisons with other communities our utility costs have always been low. We’ve been getting along but not setting aside any reserves for future reinvestment.”