I read with interest the Letter to the Editor entitled “Recycling” written by Marlene Torvik of Saskatoon. Taylor Layton is not the only one that lost her job when the Town Council decided to ax the local recycling programme. There were three people working for the Town of Outlook in recycling who also lost their jobs. Nobody got advance notice that this was going to happen! The tax payers of Outlook didn't get advance notice either. However, anyone who attended the public meeting in Outlook on October 17, 2019 would have realized that the old programme no longer worked, cost the tax payers over 1.3 million dollars during the last 5 years, and the decision to go with Loraas or some other recycling business is something that had to happen. Taylor Layton was treated no different than the other three people who lost their jobs.
The decision to change how we residents will now recycle, was not an easy one for the Town Council to make, and being on the Council is quite often a thankless job. Yes, there will be problems getting the bins to the curbs for some of the elderly and others, but I feel confident that this can be worked out.
This morning my Loraas bin was left in front of my house and I can hardly wait to use it!
Fees Keep Rising
The Town of Outlook has distributed a letter to all residents communicating them important changes to utility fees from 2020 to 2022. Not only every single utility rate is going up, but they have been doing so steadily since 2017 (I cannot compare with previous years since I was not a resident). It would be important to provide an estimate of how much would that represent for each household, and even more to compare with the rates in the last 3 years, and that is what the attached table attempts. The table contains the water charges and consequent total quarterly and annual bill charges for an estimate consumption of 50, 100, 200 and 400 cubic meters per quarter. Each resident can take a look at their former bills for each quarter (mostly spring) and estimate how much will they pay.
Numbers don’t lie. The last column reflects how each rate will at least duplicate in just 5 years. Garbage collection, for instance, will triple. I guess the people employed in this activity will see their salaries tripled, and the price of fuel will reach around $ 3.50 per liter in 2022? How otherwise to explain a cost three times as high? Recycling/Reserve is going up, despite the fact that the Town changed the “inefficient” recycling depot that was allegedly expending between 9 and 18 dollars for each dollar of revenue since 2014, to a different and “cheaper” service provider. Should residents just stop recycling and throw everything in the garbage? The water increased not just the minimum price, and the price of each additional cubic meter, but also reduced the amount of cubic meters included in the basic rate from 28 to 24. By 2022, the Town will have a revenue of roughly $ 216 thousand dollars annually just from sewer rates. How much will the sewage pump station upgrades cost, and why isn’t this cost amortized over all the years these upgrades will last?
How many Outlook residents will be able to afford between 2 and 5 thousand dollars a year in these utilities (which of course do not include power, heating, phone, Internet, TV, or property taxes). Among the wonderful Town words about how important is water or how expensive recycling, the Council forgot to wonder: how much have/would the salaries and pensions of Outlook residents grown in that same timeframe (2017-2022)? We also need to make our ends meet. When you know this and analyze the table, it gives the impression that the Town Council has a very poor concept of our intelligence.
In the financials distributed during the recent meeting of Town council and residents, it was clear that the Town have had a profit during the last few years, and the only year not showing profit (2018), was due to expenses registered but not incurred that year. Why then such outrageous rate increases? According to the Town letter, the money it will be reserved for major capital projects needed in the “not too distant future”. First: capital projects depreciate over their whole useful life, and that’s how it should be reflected in Accountancy. Second: they normally receive grants from the provincial and federal governments (whom we already pay taxes). Third: they cannot be all undertaken at the same time.
Bear in mind that utilities for the local business are also going up, property taxes were raised last year, and the Town letter also advises of other rates changing, referring us to the actual Bylaws on their website.
If the Town Council wants to keep residents in Outlook (which you would think is a priority for them), they should think not just in terms of affordability for the Town, but mostly for their residents. If they fail that, they have failed as Council.
Roberto Camba Baldomar