The New Year begins with new utility rates for Nelson homeowners.
The final stamp has been given to three of the city’s major utilities — as well as garbage and recycling — and the final answer is an increase in all.
There will be atwo per cent increase to water rates and a 1.5 per cent increase in sewer rates this year, and an increase of $5 to the flat fee for collection of recycling and garbage. In addition, there will be a 1.5 per cent increase to Nelson Hydro rates.
Rates for a single family dwelling for water and sewer will rise around $17.10 for the year, or around $1.43 per month.
The flat fee increase for garbage and recycling collection will cover the projected cost increase for Environmental Health Services operating and capital costs for 2020.
The fee increase will collect an estimated $287,000 in fees — including tags and the annual flat fee — which calculates to $71 per household annually.
The city pays additional fees to the regional district as part of the Central Waste Service for disposal of waste and to fund the regional district’s recycling program.
In 2018, the city paid $58,216 in tipping fees to the regional district and in 2019 the RDCK collected $995,038 in taxation from city residents and businesses.
But there is some good news for rate payers on one of the utilities, with the Nelson Hydro electrical utility increase not rising as high as it had been forecast.
Earlier last year Nelson Hydro filed a rate application seeking a 2.94 per cent general rate increase to the rural customer class. Although the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) approved the increase on an interim and refundable basis, in November 2019 the rate increase was adjusted to 1.5 per cent.
“Nelson Hydro must now reimburse customers for the difference between the interim rate increase and the final rate increase and adjust rates to the approved 1.5 per cent rate increase going forward,” said Nelson Hydro general manager Alex Love in his report to city council.
This decision also amended the BCUC’s 2018 decision by requiring the 2018 adjustment ($19,220) to be funded as a one-time reimbursement.
“The rural rate increase sought by Nelson Hydro was largely due to the additional tree trimming costs that were budgeted in the rural area to improve reliability and safeguard against wildfire,” Love explained, noting that the work was completed in 2019.
The Electrical Utility Bylaw was amended to reflect the rate change approved by the BCUC.
With major sewage treatment plant improvements required, the city is expected to keep the 2019 reallocation of rates between sewer and water utilities in place, wrote city chief financial officer Colin McClure in his report to council.
“This is being done in order to build the sewer reserve in order to assist in funding the expected future significant capital upgrades while keeping both the utilities fees at inflationary increases going forward,” he said.
In a previous meeting council expressed concern about running into “financial challenges” due to the regional district’s Central Resource Recovery service increasing tipping fees by 10 per cent to $110 per tonne, and the “unknown equipment and labour costs of implementing the new ‘blue can’ recycling collection with the new truck.
Those concerns translated into a $5 increase to the flat fee with the annual charge per household for collection of recycling and garbage moving to $45. The charge per garbage bag tag for disposal was set at $1.50, the same as in 2019.
“It is staff’s opinion that the City of Nelson, through picking up both garbage and recycling at the same time on a bi-weekly basis is one of, if not the most, efficient and cost effective environmental health service program in the province for a community of our size,” noted McClure in his report to council.