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Surrey council approves utility rate hikes

Finance committee considered utilities, other ‘self-funded program’ components of 5-year financial plan Monday afternoon. Council approved related rate increases on Monday night
Surrey city staff recommended utility rate hikes to the finance committee for 2024. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Surrey city council approved a series of rate hikes for utilities in 2024 with 13 related bylaws passing third reading on Monday night.

Surrey’s finance manager Kam Grewal outlined the increases at the outset of a finance committee public hearing on Monday afternoon which the committee approved.

The city’s finance committee considered the utilities and other “self-funded program” components of Surrey’s Five-Year (2024 – 2028) Financial Plan contained in a corporate report from city manager Rob Costanzo and Grewal.

Coun. Gordon Hepner offered up a “bravo” to Grewal “for keeping the rates very low, lower than inflation. Thank you very much for doing that and I think the residents will certainly be happy with that.”

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The report asked the finance committee to recommend that council approve the rate adjustments contained in the report and direct staff to prepare the 2024 Five-Year (2024–2028) Financial Plan for water, sewer, drainage, solid waste, parking, and district energy self-funded programs – which follow a user-pay approach.

The city adopted its residential water metering program 15 years ago and handles 73,000 metered water accounts, which last year were charged $1.2239 per cubic metre of water used.

The corporate report noted that in 2024 the “primary budget drivers” include a 7.6 per cent water rate increase from the Greater Vancouver Water District, and due to this, seeing as the GVWD bulk water purchase makes up 67 per cent of Surrey’s annual water budget, the water utility metered rate will increase by 3.8 per cent over 2023 rate and a $3 increase to the base charge will be applied to “average” residential and commercial metered properties. The flat water rate, for non-metered customers, will also rise by 3.8 per cent.

The actual impact on average metered single-family residences will be $16.74.

“For the commercial properties the metered commercial rate, the average impact is expected to be $93 as a result of the rate change and for the non-metered residential, or the flats, $37.20 for the year,” Grewal said.

Also for 2024 the sewer utility rates for metered and non-metered accounts will be increased by 14.5 per cent over the 2023 rate, there will be a 1.5 per cent rate hike for all properties to support maintenance and capital costs related to Surrey’s drainage infrastructure, and solid waste utility rates in 2024 will be increased by one per cent.

“In 2024 the primary budget driver does include a 17.5 per cent increase by the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District,” Grewal said. “The GVSDD sewer charge accounts for almost three quarters – 72 per cent of the city’s total annual sewer utility expenditure budget.”

Because of the increase in the GVSDD sewage rates and utilities operating capital cost demands, Grewal said, “an increase in the sewer rate is necessary for 2024.”

The actual impact, he said, is expected to be $69.88 per year for a metered single family dwelling, $388.20 for metered commercial properties and $155.28 per year for non-metered residential properties.

Surrey residents will also be paying more for garbage, recycling and organic waste pick-up. For single-family and multi-family residential, annual rates are expected to increase to $337 from $333.59 and secondary suites to $168 from $166.26. For apartment and townhouse recycling and organics pickup, the proposed increase is to $46 from $45.64 and for recycling alone, to $35 from $34.77.

Parking rates are to be “adjusted” at the Green Timbers and Surrey Nature Centre parking lots with no change to electric vehicle charging rates for 2024.

Finally, there’s Surrey’s district energy system – aka Surrey City Energy – which supplies residential, institutional and commercial buildings in the city centre with heat and hot water. There will be a 1.43 per cent rate increase for 2024, which will result in a $12.22 cost hike annually for a 700-square foot dwelling that uses on average 6.8 mega-watt hours of energy per year.

During the public hearing, Deb Jack of Surrey Environmental Partners chided the city for not recognizing trees as an important utility. “Each and every time the main utility we have in the environment, which is trees, is ignored. It’s our best living utility, without which we can’t manage.”

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, told the finance committee many residents and businesses are unable to take time off work in the middle of the day to comment at a public hearing. The five-year revenue for the drainage utility, she noted, is projected to be $240 million with an income before transfers of $164 million, “resulting in an impressive surplus of 68 per cent.

“Notably the historical context suggests that no other utility program has delivered a surplus of this magnitude. We’re interested in understanding why such a substantial surplus is deemed necessary for the drainage utility.”

Council set a meeting for the parcel tax roll review for Wednesday, March 13 at 2 p.m. in Community Room 1E in city hall.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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