EAST HANTS: Water customers could potentially see their first increase in more than four years.
During the September executive committee of council meeting, Director of Finance Kim Ramsay addressed council speaking of the steps needed to approach the Utility and Review Board (UARB) to ask for a hike in the water rate.
Currently at $9.55 per 1,000 gallons for 5/8 metre customers —the common residential pipe size —plus a base charge of $180, the water utility in East Hants is currently running a deficit.
“We’ve had deficits in the utility for the last four years, if you look at the rate calculation, we were looking at a deficit last year of $45,000,” she stated. “And that could have been much worse.
We got a $74,000 contribution from the province for a grant, so it could have been much worse than that. We are projecting for 16/17, if we don’t change our rates we’re looking at a $213,000 deficit, and worse from there, $254,000 and $320,000 over the next three years if we do nothing from our rates.”
Consumption is the number one reason leading to the deficit.
“One of the main contributing factors is our consumption rates. We have had a consumption rate of $9.55 per 1000 gallons since 2012.” explained Ramsay. “We were expecting a number of 49,000 gallons used per customer per year. We sit at the moment at about 42,000 gallons on average per year.
“That is certainly having a significant impact. Since 2010/2011 we were at 51,000. In 2011/2012 we were at 49,000 and it keeps going down from there. People are really either getting at the water without using their meters or they’re really conserving water. It isn’t totally out to lunch, when you look at one toilet, if you replace a low-flow toilet with a water guzzling toilet, it’s about 3,500 gallons a year. So people truly are putting in low flow flush, low flow shower heads, it really doesn’t take much to shift that average down from 40,000 to 33,000.”
Ramsay went on to explain what her department is proposing as the rate increase.
“Your average water bill right now is about $500, with your base rate and your consumption.That will jump by $11 a quarter in 17/18, and then it will take another jump of $11 a quarter in 18/19 approximately,” she said. “Overall in the next four years you will see a 21 per cent increase. That’s assuming 33,000 gallons is your average consumption
The base charge is fairly static, we went from $180 to $188, so, really not a huge increase.
But the true dollar figure of a customer’s bill lies in the usage per customer.
“The consumption charge is where the difference is. The rates right now are $9.55 for 1000 gallons.The actual rate should be $11.81, $12.19, $12.34 for 1,000 gallons over the next four years.
“What staff is recommending to the UARB is that your rate go to $11,then $12 and then settle at $12.34 of year three.”
Ramsay said that recommendation is to soften the blow of the increase to the consumers. This will leave the utility in deficit for a little while longer, leaving it to draw on reserves.
“If everything goes as planned and all the budgets go as planned, the budget here, we would still be running a deficit of $98,000, in 2018 we will run a deficit of $21,000 and then we would break even by 2019/2020,” she said.
The proposed hike has to go through a UARB hearing.