Utility rates to increase almost 50 per cent by 2016

A number of large-scale scheduled projects will require an uptick in utility rates in Mission

Mission’s residential flat-rate water and sewer services will be increasing by as much as 50 per cent from 2010 levels by 2016, mainly due to large scheduled projects during that time.

According to the district’s 2012 Community Report, water rates were $389 in 2010 and increased 15 per cent to $447 this year. Those rates will now increase five per cent in each of the following years until they reach $571 in 2016.

Sewer services will face a similar hike, reaching $434 in 2016 from $309 in 2010, a 40 per cent increase. Flat-rate sewer services increased 10 per cent in 2011 to $340 and will increase five per cent a year until 2016.

According to the district’s deputy director of finance, Kris Boland, it’s largely due to capital projects scheduled between now and 2016. Those projects are outlined in the Community Report, but not the source of funding.

“There is a bit of a shortfall based on our projections in the DCCs (development cost charges), so the internal borrowing is going from the water capital reserve to the DCCs,” he said.

Part of the rate increases for water and sewers are going to cover operating increases, such as increased salaries resulting from collective bargaining agreements with unionized workers, while a portion will go toward building up reserves, which will fund capital projects such as Norrish Creek water utilities, which will eat up nearly $1 million next year, or the $2.1 million Gladwin Road transmission main.

There are over a dozen projects scheduled for sewer utilities next year, all in the JAMES treatment plant project, ranging from $60,000 to the $2 million Stage VII upgrades.

Boland said the municipality is also cushioning reserves because of the uncertainty about future water plans for the district, and how those may or may not fit in with Abbotsford.

“We know something is going to have to happen, so it’s not a matter of dropping rates and giving that money back to everyone.”

One of the major differences between the long-term outlook for water and sewer reserves is that water is being built up for large-scale projects, though what those might be are still undetermined.

Water reserves are expected to dip to $5.6 million in 2012 before rising to $16.9 million by 2016. But sewer reserves will drop to $4.3 million in 2016 from $6.6 million budgeted for 2012, mainly due to the ongoing JAMES treatment project.

“In terms of water and sewer, since we took over the system with Abbotsford, the capital plans have just mushroomed,” said Boland. “We’ve had very little time to plan for these huge projects.”

Boland said many of the projects have been driven largely by Abbotsford’s rapid growth.

He added while the district is saving reserves as it waits to see what water plans Abbotsford pursues, sewer utilities are localized and the cost projections going forward are foreseeable.