Oxford County residents will see some changes to their water and wastewater rates come April.
County council approved water and wastewater rates for 2017 to 2020, and the typical Oxford County user will see a 1.5 per cent increase annually for the next four years.
Warden David Mayberry said that the rates that were passed are reflective of the cost and users will average about an annual 1.5 per cent increase over the next four years.
“I think, overall, that’s a pretty reasonable amount,” he said. “I think what it does reflect is that over the last number of years the county has done a good job at keeping the rates where they needed to be so that they could keep them in good shape and they’re collecting enough to operate them at a reasonable level.”
Based on data using the typical water/wastewater user as a measurement (residents who use 170 cubic meters per year), many of the rural townships will see significant decreases to their wastewater rates in 2017 though.
The two largest rate decreases being in Innerkip with an 18 per cent decrease to its wastewater rates and Plattsville with a 13.4 per cent decrease, but after 2017 each of the townships will then see a steady increase to their rates annually to 2020.
Norwich, which was already using a metered system, is the only township that will see a 0.6 per cent increase to its wastewater rates each year until 2020.
All of the townships will experience a decrease of 22.9 per cent in water rates in 2017, because those rates are shared across all of the townships.
Typical users in the three urban centers, Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Ingersoll, will all be seeing increased water and wastewater rates in 2017. Typical Woodstock users will see a 3.4 per cent increase in 2017, Tillsonburg users will see a 1.8 per cent increase and Ingersoll users will see a 1.5 per cent increase.
The county also considered consolidating all of the wastewater rates for the townships, putting them each under one system like the townships water rates.
Council voted against consolidating all of the townships wastewater rates, instead voting to keep them independent.
CAO Peter Crockett said combining all of the township systems was proposed because of an opportunity to reduce reserve balances.
“One of the ways we thought we could reduce the reserve balances was by consolidating the rural wastewater system, and that allowed for us to look at the timing and the overall moneys that needed to be available in the reserve in order for the programs to continue,” Crockett said. “We thought that there was a financial opportunity there, if the rural wastewater systems were put under one umbrella.”
The concern expressed by council, Crockett said, is that by having the systems stay independent puts a higher emphasis on the implications of new systems being added.
“It essentially forces the issue that old systems very clearly have to be able to financially support those new systems,” he said. “That does get blurred a little bit if it is a combined wastewater system.”
Council also voted to suspend the yearly Community Servicing Assistance Program (CSAP) fee charge of $20 per water and wastewater service.
According to Oxford County’s website, CSAP provides financial assistance to existing landowners where municipal water and sewers have been extended to replace private water and wastewater systems.
Crockett said CSAP still exists, but the ongoing collection for that program will be suspended indefinitely as of April 1.
“There’s money in the CSAP reserve, so there’s money should a system extension come forward, get approved and be eligible for CSAP funding,” he said. “The money’s there to be able to do that, and at that point in time council could also look at reinitiating the proposal to replenish those reserves.”
The county will now bring a bylaw to council next month so the approved 2017 to 2020 rates can be officially adopted.