| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am
Rebates for some water users are going ahead despite an attempt by the mayor to move the money to utility reserves instead.
“Administration is proposing a one-time rebate to 2008-2011 water users,” said chief financial officer Anita Ho during Monday’s council meeting.
The rebate is the result of $939,258 the city is getting back from Epcor as a result of a regional dispute over water rates for the years 2008-2011. Administration recommended water users from those years be given a rebate back based on their consumption – an average of $39.47 a resident – and the water rate for 2014 be reduced from $1.63 per cubic metre to $1.60 per cubic metre.
For water users who are still city customers, the rebate would be a credit on their quarterly bill.
Coun. Cathy Heron wanted to know how homeowners who’ve moved since those years will get the rebate. Ho said for those who no longer have accounts, they will be contacted if they provided a forwarding address. They will also advertise in the “City lights” ads and on the city’s website for people to claim the rebate.
“So if the account was closed and they don’t claim that rebate, we might have a surplus?’ Heron asked. Heron then drafted a motion for any funds that have gone unclaimed by Dec. 31, 2014 to be moved into utility reserves.
Coun. Cam MacKay was concerned about the costs of administering the rebate, but was told the extra costs should be minimal.
Coun. Sheena Hughes worried about how much extra work this would cause staff.
Meanwhile, Mayor Nolan Crouse passed the chair to MacKay, who is deputy mayor, so Crouse could move a motion that instead of sending the rebate to customers, the $939,258 be transferred to utility reserves.
“We’ve been faced with some real challenges with regards to utilities funding,” Crouse said.
It might feel like council should transfer it back to utility users, Crouse said. However, the rebate would benefit many who no longer live in the community and he suggested holding onto the money until utility model discussions occur in February.
“I think (the discussion’s) going to show that we’re underfunded,” Crouse said.
Several of the councillors moved to reject that suggestion.
“It’s really their money,” said Coun. Wes Brodhead on why he would support the rebate going to customers.
“I have yet to order my Coun. Brodhead ditto button,” said Heron, noting while she’d love to put the money into reserves, “this is not a windfall of money out of the sky,” but money the residents paid.
“I’m just going to have to ditto ditto,” Hughes said. She said this would help earn ratepayers’ trust that they will give money back if ratepayers are overcharged.
“I would agree with my previous council colleagues,” MacKay said. “If the utility reserves are deficient, we have an appropriate remedy. We can increase the rates.”
Crouse’s motion was defeated 1-6.
Motions to follow administration’s recommendations to give the rebate to 2008-2011 water users and lower the proposed 2014 water rate, as well as Heron’s motion that any money unclaimed by the end of 2014 go into the utility capital reserve, were all passed unanimously by council.