After a string of well-above-inflation rate increases for water, Woolwich residents will see no hikes in 2014. The price they’ll pay for wastewater going out, however, will take another large jump, up 7.9 per cent.
The sewage charges would bring the rate to $2.18 per cubic metre from $2.02, adding $29-$38 per year to a customer’s bill, based on an average of 180 to 240 cubic metres. The fee for water will remain at $1.61 per cubic metre, following a 5.9 per cent hike in 2013.
Woolwich councillors meeting Tuesday night quickly approved the new rates, part of the 2014 water and wastewater budget.
Huge increases have been the norm in recent years, as the region implements the user-pay, full-cost-recovery model for its water and wastewater systems, as mandated by the province.
In presenting the budget, treasurer Richard Petherick noted the township expects to finish 2013 with a surplus on the water side, but a deficit on the wastewater front due to the wet weather this year.
A freeze on the water rates was possible despite an expected 4.9 per cent increase in the bulk water rates from Waterloo Region, which accounts for 61 per cent of Woolwich’s operating costs, due to some cost controls on the portion of expenditures the township does control, he explained.
For instance, having offloaded the cost of water meter installations to private contractors – most new homes now have the meters installed when the plumbing is done – the township’s costs are down some 54 per cent. These kinds of savings are being passed on to water ratepayers, said Petherick.
Responding to Mayor Todd Cowan’s question about how Woolwich’s rates compare to Wellesley and North Dumfries townships, where the water and wastewater services are handled directly by the Region of Waterloo, Petherick noted the local water rates are not the highest, while the wastewater rates are.
Coun. Allan Poffenroth suggested, as he has in previous years, that the township look at outsourcing meter reading or going with electronic options if that would reduce costs, likewise advocating for paperless billing.
Petherick noted the township’s e-billing efforts are in their “infancy,” though hesitated at Poffenroth’s suggestion Woolwich look at offering a discount to customers who opt to receive their bills electronically rather than by post. Instead, he pointed to some utilities that charge extra for a paper bill, arguing that discounts would erode any of the savings that could come from shifting to an electronic format.