Letter to the Editor - January 16 Edition

RE: ‘Fees Keep Rising’ (January 9 Edition)

1. Taxes in the Town of Outlook did not increase from 2018 to 2019, remaining at 8 mills.  If an individual property tax increased, it is likely because of assessment changes.

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2. Water and Sewer Utilities are expected to be self-sufficient.  It is strongly recommended by the provincial government that utilities not be subsidized by general taxation revenues.  The average provincial rate for combined water and sewer charges in 2016 (the last year that this data is available from SaskWater) was $81.03 per month.   It is safe to assume that those rates have increased as well.  In 2020, the minimum bill for all utilities (water, sewer, garbage, recycling, and both reserve funds) will be $205 per quarter, or $68 per month.  The average utility bill (based on average consumption of is 65 m3 per quarter) will be $274.89 per quarter (or $91.63 per month – just slightly higher than the 2016 provincial average).

3. Of twelve randomly selected residential billings, the average water consumption is 65 m3 per quarter.  This equates to an increase in the water portion of the utility bill by $116.19 in 2020 (or $0.32 per day).  On a minimum water consumption billing, the increase goes from $90.00 to $100.00 per quarter (or $40.00 per year - $0.11 per day).

4. The Town of Outlook has $32 million in capital projects that will need to be undertaken as funding and grants permit.  These include $10 million for a raw water intake, $1.5 million for lagoon upgrades, $1 m for water treatment plant upgrades, $4 m for a sewage pump station, $7.2 million for storm water upgrades, to name a few.  The Infrastructure fund of $10.00 and the Reserve fund of $15.00 per billing will help to raise the Town’s portion of these projected costs.  If grants become available to us, the Town’s share would likely be 1/3 of the total cost.  These rates should provide the Town with a total of $100,000 per year in reserve funds, which will be set aside to be used specifically for these projects.

5. Rates charged for garbage collection and recycling have not been keeping up with the costs associated with the provision of services.  With no changes in waste collection rates since 2009 (when the rate went from $12.00 to $15.00 per quarter), the Town has been falling behind.  Here is a chart showing revenues vs expenditures for Environmental and Public Health Services:

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Even without the $1 m liability set up in 2018, the Town was still in a deficit position.  Council needed to address this.  The additional revenues raised in 2020, 2021, and 2022, for garbage collection and recycling will help reduce the operating deficits.  In 2020, the additional charges will amount to approximately $58,000. In 2021, the additional charges will amount to approximately $118,000, and in 2022, the additional charges will amount to approximately $178,000 over 2019 revenues.  The Town is committed to reducing costs wherever possible (and Council has done so by, for example, making the difficult decision to close the recycle depot in 2019) while still maintaining a level of service required by the residents of the community.

6. It is unfortunate that all of these rate increases have had to occur at the same time; however, Council knows that it is dealing with dire circumstances and must now address the issues facing it, rather than delaying the inevitable and making the situation even worse in the future.

Outlook Town Council

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