White Rock council has given first, second and third readings to a water bylaw amendment which would raise water rates by three per cent in 2019.
According to a report from the city’s financial services director Sandra Kurylo, the increase would translate to $4 per quarter (or an additional $1 per month) for an average detached single-family home and $2 per quarter (less than $1 more per month) for an average strata property.
The vote came at a special meeting Monday, following an extensive discussion in which members of the new council struggled to come to terms with potential impacts of three options – no increase, a three per cent increase and the five per cent increase recommended by staff.
Kurylo and chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill explained that it would be necessary to reduce the water-utility infrastructure reserve to accommodate a lower increase to the water rate (an 8.5 per cent had been proposed in a corporate report on Nov. 19, before council sent the issue back to staff for further review) and that this would lead to significant water infrastructure budget shortfalls over the next five years.
But Coun. Scott Kristjanson and other council members wanted to know specifics of what budget items would be affected – rather than simple monetary figures – and also whether general city reserves could be accessed to pay for water-utility infrastructure.
Bottrill answered that reserve monies have been put aside for specific purposes, and there are strict limits on what other funds – such as DCCs (development cost charges) and CACs (community amenity contributions) – can pay for.
“You may be buying a few years, but that’s all you’re doing – you’re deferring work that ultimately needs to be done, “he said. “We have 77 kilometres of waterline that ultimately needs to be replaced… We’re trying to figure out how do we make our utilities sustainable.”
While Coun. Anthony Manning and Coun. Erika Johanson joined Kristjanson in backing no increase, the three-per-cent rise was approved in a 4-3 vote and will now go to council’s Dec. 10 meeting for final reading and adoption.