About 15 residents attended the Sept. 14 Ashcroft Council meeting, most of them visibly unhappy with Council’s intention to raise utility costs and eliminate the seniors 25 per cent discount.
By the end of the meeting, Council had passed first readings of the new bylaws that would enact the rate changes, but it is also considering reducing the seniors discount rather than eliminating it altogether.
Mayor Jack Jeyes introduced the discussion by reading a letter he sent to The Journal (on page 4). He also read from The Village’s Economic Development strategy and of the need to make the Village attractive to young adults and their families.
Coun. Alf Trill said he was not totally opposed to reducing the discount, “but I don’t want to see it gone.”
Coun. Barbara Roden said she looked into what other communities did. Most, she said, didn’t offer a senior’s discount and many didn’t offer a discount for early payment.
Although Council passed the first readings of Sewer Bylaw 796, Water Bylaw 797 and Solid Waste amendment Bylaw 798 with changes to the rates and the discount, the bylaws need to go through two more readings before they are enacted, and they can still be changed.
Roden suggested that the Senior’s Discount be changed in the bylaws for the second reading so that they are only reduced from 25 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020.
The rates, however, will still go up for everyone.
The sewer rate for a single family dwelling or mobile home goes from $313 per year in 2015 and 2016 to $344 in 2017, $378 by 2018; $416 by 2019; $454 by 2020; and $504 by 2021.
The figures provided to the councillors by staff seemed elusive at times as they tried to understand how they were arrived at.
If we’re going to take away senior discount, said Coun. Al Mertens, we are making more money and we should reduce the rates for everyone, otherwise there’s a windfall. In effect, he said, 50 per cent of the taxpayers are putting in more money because they no longer have the discount.
Administrator Michelle Allen said the Village should be short by $150 per billing if the Seniors Discount stayed, and that shortage would have to be made up by the other utility users.
After more discussion, it was determined that not eliminating the Seniors Discount would put the Village in a deficit position.
“I did not know that,” said Mertens.
“Of course we would,” replied Jeyes.
Staff was asked to draw up a new table of figures based on the revised discount for th next Council meeting.
Water rates will go up the most, nearly doubling by 2020. According to Bylaw 797, the annual rate for a single family or a mobile home is $274 in 2015; $315 in 2016; $362 in 2017; $416 in 2018; $478 in 2019; $550 in 2020.
Roden thanked staff and the previous Council for starting the ball rolling for the new water treatment plant.
At some point, she said, Interior Health would have told the Village to build a new plant ad it would have been a rush to get it done.
Water is vitally important to everyone, said Roden.
“Hardly anyone in the province pays what it actually costs to get water,” she said. “We wouldn’t survive three days without water.”