Proposed Levy May Be Washed Up
It all seemed to start from a question from Councilor Brian Swanson and from there the taps turned on and the discussion gurgled out.
At the end of the presentation regarding water rates and potentially converting the present $15 Hospital Levy to a Waterworks Levy Councilor Swanson asked “If the Hospital Levy was allowed to disappear as promised what would the increase (in water rates) be?”
“Probably 18 or 19 percent,” Finance Director Brian Acker replied.
“This is a massive transfer to the lower income residents and is also massive on multi-units,” Swanson said, adding “it produces a whole new series of problems and I think the people of Moose Jaw thought when the Hospital Levy finished it would be finished.”
Mayor Frasier Tolmie asked Swanson “You’re in favour of an 18 to 19 percent increase?”
“It’s alusary to drop it to six percent and transfer the levy,” Swanson said. Last year the budget called for 15 percent water rate increases for the following five years.
“It really transfers the costs to those who can least afford it and has no basis in municipal revenues,” he said.
Councilor Heather Eby pointed out the levy move came as a way to replace monies an LIP would have brought in.
“It doesn’t feel super great to me. I’m not going to support it when I vote,” Councillor Eby said.
“Last year it was 15 percent and we transfer to nine percent – two percent went on taxes,” Mayor Tolmie said bringing up the issue of how City water users are subsidizing RM and water co-op customers.
RM and water co-op customers would not be subject to the levy but the infrastructure is being repaired and upgraded would provide service to them. These customers pay their water bills based on a formula tied to water rates in the city.
“How much are we subsidizing? I’d like to hear the options here,” he asked.
Acker responded it was approximately $2.4 million in taxpayer subsidy and the amount to RM and Water Co-op customers was “fairly small.”
“If its half or one percent (of taxes) the citizen’s of Moose Jaw are subsidizing other communities. RMs and co-ops need to pay their fair share,” the Mayor stated.