Friday, December 18, 2009

Water you looking at?

Hello again. This one is one of my "political" blogs but it's actually pretty interesting if you stay with me and follow along.
As some of you know the Village Council of New Maryland presented our annual budget Wednesday night in our regular Council meeting at the Village Council chambers.
It was read by Councillor Scott Sparks who chairs the Finance Committee who did a great job. Scott usually does.
The gist of the budgets is to officially provide details publicly of the municipality's capital and operating costs as well the tax rate that will be charged to the residents. Information of the New Maryland budgets is available here . The new budget hasn't been posted yet but will be shortly.
Also included in the budget, which I am directing this blog at, is the rates which will be charged to the Village residents that are connected to the Village water and sanitary sewage system.
This falls under my care as I am the Chair of the Water and Wastewater Committee.
Our committee is charged with the task of beating about figures in order to come up with rates that are fair to the users and are sufficient to cover all operating costs associated with these systems. We are not allowed to operate under a deficit situation.
New Maryland is unique in that not all residents are connected to the municipal water supply.
It's slightly higher than one third of the Village's households that are.
The difficulty that this presents is that any and all costs associated with the water system must be paid by those that are on it and not by the other residents who are still on their own wells. (I am on my own well.)
Over the last couple of years the Village has undertaken the task of installing water meters on the properties connected to the system.
There were a few reasons for doing this but the two major reasons were
1. to provide an incentive for the municipal system users to reduce water consumption and conserve where possible and not be wasteful and
2. to make those users that choose to use excess water pay for doing this.

It's not very fair that a household with one or two people should pay the same amount for their water as a household with ten people in it, is it?
At the end of 2008 the majority of the homes getting meters had them installed.
The Water and Wastewater Committee, Council and Village staff then needed to figure out what amount per cubic metre to charge in order to cover the operating costs of the system and allow those reducing water consumption to realize a savings.
In order to do this we needed to gather historical data of the water consumption and calculate from there.
Unfortunately there was not very much historical data available at the end of 2008 to work with. Even so, we did our best and came up with what we believed would work.
I'm not going to rehash the fun of last year when there were differing opinions of what the rates should be. It was done and we did as well as could be expected.
One would think that by the end of 2009 it would be pretty easy to work out the rate for 2010 with a whole year of data available to us.
Almost easy.
A couple of things arose which we felt needed to be taken into consideration.
What about a household which uses absolutely no water over a certain period of time? An example of this would be residents that travel south during winter months.
Currently the only thing they would be required to pay would be the $5 per quarter fee for the actual meter. (This amount is to reserve funds for replacement of the meter at the end of its lifecycle.) Everyone pays that who has a Village meter.
But what about the costs of the system itself? Even though one household may not use water in a given period the costs to operate the system continue in order for the system to still be there for when this household does use it again.
You have no idea how tricky this process was! There were many things to consider and we knew that whatever we came up with had to be totally fair for those who chose to do their civic duty and conserve water.
I'll make this long story shorter here.
My committee with help from Village staff worked tirelessly through several meetings and worked out an amount to recommend to Council for the 2010 water rate.
There was a little back and forth corresponding between Council and the committee but in the end we did it.
I felt pretty darn good about it too. In my mind I am convinced that the new rate is completely fair and will enable the system to operate soundly.
Those who choose to conserve and reduce water consumption will be rewarded accordingly by realizing a savings in their water bill.
The 2010 water rate was set and announced on Wednesday night as part of the budget. This was followed by a motion presented by me to amend By-law No. 40-01-2009 Water Rates and Sewer Rentals By-law to reflect the new rate. This rate is to take effect on January 1, 2010.

I'd like to detail this just a little.

Prior to the new rate taking effect, users of the municipal water system in New Maryland are being charged $1.60 per cubic metre of water metered. In addition there is a charge of $5 per quarter for the meter itself as I mentioned above.
As of January 1, 2010 the water rate will become $1.30 per cubic metre of water as well as a flat fee of $35 per quarter (to allow for all users to contribute to the system's operating costs).
The charge of $5 per quarter for the meter remains in place.
In reality the new water rate is less than the current one.

I would like to use a scenario to illustrate.

Let's take an example of a household which which uses 250 cubic metres of water in a quarter (three month period).

At the present rate of $1.60 this household will pay:

250 cubic metres @ $1.60 equals $400. Adding the $5 meter fee and their charge in this quarter is $405.

The same household at the new rate of $1.30 and $35 per quarter flat fee will pay:

250 cubic metres @ $1.30 is $325. Adding the $35 flat fee and $5 meter fee this works out to a total of $365 in this quarter.

To summarize, $405 based on the current rate and $325 at the new rate as of January 1, 2010.

I am very happy with this. I was very happy with this on Wednesday night.
In my entire time as a Councillor I have never come out of a Council meeting feeling so positive and convinced that we had done a top notch job for the residents.
I truly felt great.

I'm thinking that perhaps it also had something to do with the fact that I had decided to dress nicely in my suit and festive Christmas tie for the meeting. Perhaps by dressing nicely I subconsciously created a positive vibe within me?

It was a good night.

Yesterday morning I read the Daily Gleaner article by Shawn Berry covering our budget. It's at and as you'll see Mr. Berry has done the professional job I have come to expect from him.
He interviewed Councillor Sparks immediately after the budget was presented and gathered additional facts and opinions right away to complement the details he already had.
This is why I have come to really admire Shawn and the work he does.

As I drove to work I listened to the news on the radio. The report spoke of the Village's new tax rate and several other details.
Then he said "residents of the Village will be paying more for water."

For crying out loud...

That's all I'll say about that.

Stay well,



Rhonda Merkley Maccarone said...

Well it couldn't possibly be more expensive than living here and if you worked it out as fairly as you could then all you can do is feel good about it and move on. We pay a fortune for everything.....
The media tends to live in it's own little world.
Congratulations on a job well done!

Anonymous said...

What was the quarterly rate before the new water meters were put in?

Tim Scammell, PTech said...

The rate was $90 per quarter flat fee.
Keep in mind that the water use amounts that I used for the example were pulled out of the air.