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White Rock water rates on the rise

City staff to propose resumption of 100 per cent reserve-fund contributions: CAO
The new Oxford Reservoir is part of the infrastructure of the City of White Rock’s water utility, purchased from Epcor in 2015. (File photo)

Water rates are on the rise again in White Rock.

Council voted unanimously Jan. 30 to give final readings to a bylaw amendment that means – according to financial services director Candice Gartry – fees on average are expected to increase by 6.5 per cent.

For the average single-family home, the bump will boost their annual bill to $731 from last year’s $686, while multi-family homes will see an increase to $278 annually, from $247.

The changes will show in April, on customers’ first-quarter water bill.

Gartry told members of the finance and audit committee in a meeting earlier in the evening that the rates are based on the city’s five-year plan, and “recover the cost of providing the services.”

She said the city is currently in the second year of a four-phase water-rate restructuring. Council voted unanimously in June 2021 to undertake the process, to restructure fees to reflect actual consumption by customers; bring the fees more in line with the average charged in other Lower Mainland communities; align fees with water-utility costs; and promote water conservation.

READ MORE: New White Rock water rate structure could mean increase in some bills

Under the restructuring, each account is charged a fixed fee based on the size of the water meter installed, plus a fixed-rate charge for water actually consumed by each user.

A corporate report presented to council last December notes the proposed fee increases for 2023 are generally inflationary, however, some are higher – “increased beyond an inflation rate of 2% to better align with the actual cost of providing the service.”

With regard to reserve funds for the utility – which the city purchased from Epcor in 2015 – Gartry said the city falls short.

Ideally, the goal is to maintain between five and 10 per cent of the water-asset replacement value, Gartry said, noting that figure is currently estimated at $138 million.

“However, we are projected that our reserves will remain between $5.4 and $4.1 million.”

Asked by Coun. Bill Lawrence if there is a plan to get to a level that provides “the comfort zone that we would like to achieve,” Gartry responded that rates are increasing every year for the next five years, “but it’s going to take a longer-term plan to get it to where we need to be.”

Asked by Mayor Megan Knight why the reserves are so low, CAO Guillermo Ferrero said the last few councils’ budgets “have had some cuts on the contribution to reserves that may have contributed.”

“We are forecasting in 2023 to propose to council to go back to 100 per cent funding to the reserves, so it will be a discussion for council to have on the next budget, how much money council wishes to put into the reserves,” Ferrero added.

In Surrey, council is to vote Monday (Jan. 30) on staff recommendations to raise water, sewer, drainage and solid-waste utility rates.

READ MORE: Surrey utility rate hikes on the way if council approves city staff recommendations
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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