Friday, November 27, 2020

With review of provincial COVID funding options complete; City puts Fees and Charges increases in motion for 2021

With City Council on the clock towards some civic housekeeping on fees, the Council members approved the Water Utility Management, Sanitary and Storm Sewer Management and Solid Waste Management Amendment Bylaws on Monday night.

Setting in motion the process of adoption in time for the start of 2021, that after a two week deferral for staff to review some notes on COVID related start up funding from the province.

The move forward for the fee increases came after the City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben provided a tutorial for the Council members on the options for the recently received Provincial funding.

The review came following the tabling of the Fees increase bylaw two weeks ago at the request of Councillor Barry Cunningham, who had requested a look into the funding options from the provincial money and if it could be used towards reducing the impact of the fee increases on the public.

Unfortunately for Council, as Ms. Bomben outlined, the provincial funds have specific direction associated with them, which does not include the use that Mr. Cunningham had hoped for.

"The bylaws proposed account only for inflationary increases known and expected. As for the water fund the increased need for the now expected, unexpected repairs has been included. None of these factors relate to the pandemic. The grant permits us to use the Safe Restart funding for losses and increased costs related to items to safely operate in a COVID environment. PPE, Plexiglass dividers, additional cleaning all fall within this category."

Ms. Bomben also provided a thumbnail sketch as to where the city could allocated the funding when it comes to civic losses owing to COVID.

"As for losses the best use of these funds are to account for the Public Health Office restrictions affecting our recreation complex and the reduction of flights to the airport which are approximately half of normal. Both the Recreation Complex and our Airport Ferry will require additional support to keep the services available for use. Rather than propose a tax increase for these services which affects all property owners, staff are anticipating to utilize the grant recently announced for expected COVID related additional support. Therefore No, the Safe Restart Grant is not applicable to the Utilities increases proposed, given they're not proposed as a result of COVID"

The CFO did note that the City could use the Funding should things get worse for the financials and a full shutdown occur in the future resulting in less consumption from metered commercial users, the city could use the grant towards the losses that may be experienced.

As for the Fees and what's ahead the Amendment Bylaws put into place the following incremental increases to the utility fees over the next 4 years to account for inflationary costs. 

Solid waste - 2% increase in each year starting in 2021
Water - 4% increase in 2021, 2% thereafter for the remaining three years
Sanitary/Sewer - 0% increase in 2021, 2% thereafter for the remaining three years 

As part of her presentation from Monday, Ms. Bomben noted that the increases are less than the previous rate increases of 3% per year, which was implemented during the last adoption of four-year fee bylaws. 

With the CFO observing as well that Utilities are self-funding for operations, with all funds collected going towards the operating cost of the respective utility. 

Council also voted to give First, Second and Third Reading to a new Cemetery Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw, which will see an increase of 2% and a minor adjustment to the care fund which helps to maintain the memorials. New columbaria are also planned to be installed in 2021, and the fees reflect new options that will be available with this change. 

Learn more about the City's cemetery services here, as well as from their brochure on what they offer residents.

You can review the full schedule of fees from the City's Agenda Package here, while the presentation from Ms. Bomben is available from the City's Video Archive starting at the minute 14 minute mark.  

Further background on the city's taxation and fees themes can be explored here.

More notes on Monday's Council Session can be found from our Council Timeline feature.

While a wider overview of past Council Discussion themes is available here.

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