Water rates going up by average of $100 in 2017
by Joyanne Pursaga, originally posted on November 28, 2016
Winnipeggers will pay more to turn on the taps and flush the toilet this year, but some of that revenue will again be drained away to fund other projects.
The average home is expected to be charged about $100 more for sewer and water rates in 2017. That will be part of a three-year rate hike that began in 2016, if the preliminary budget passes as is. And it’s set to be followed by another $92 hike in 2018.
The city argues it needs the cash to complete $1.2 billion of wastewater treatment plant upgrades by 2019, as well as spend between $1 billion and $4 billion to reduce combined sewer overflows.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), who chairs council’s water and waste committee, said securing more provincial and federal funds for the mega projects could help the city reduce future rate hikes.
“As you can see, we’re increasing the water rates to help pay for this program. If we can get some relief, we could reduce the rates,” said Mayes.
Meanwhile, the city’s preliminary budget also includes a transfer that’s expected to drain about $35.6 million from water and waste revenues into general coffers. That’s up from about $32 million in 2016.
Mayes said ending the transfer to boost the city’s portion of the upgrades may sound easy but stressed doing so would leave a gaping hole in the overall budget.
“If we got rid of the dividend, then there’s a 6%, 7% … property tax increase,” he said.
Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox was not available for an interview Monday but in an email her office noted that the province has contributed $62.3 million to the City of Winnipeg’s wastewater treatment upgrades.
“We are continuing to work with other levels of government to contribute to the services Manitobans rely upon,” said a spokesperson from the Manitoba Government in the statement.
The province could also lighten the cost of the overall project if it decides the city must remove only phosphorus from the effluent of its North End sewage treatment plant, instead of an original requirement to also remove nitrogen.
Scientists and governments have hotly debated whether removing both is needed to better protect against algae growth nutrients within Lake Winnipeg.
Mayes said removing only phosphorus could save hundreds of millions of dollars.