Summerland residents can expect to pay considerably more for their utilities in 2023.
At the Summerland council meeting on Dec. 12, council gave the first three readings to bylaws amending the rates for the community. The changes allow for increases to water, sewer and electrical utility rates.
For a typical home in the community, utility rates are expected to increase from $2,719 a year in 2022 to $3,072 a year in 2023. This works out to an increase of just under 13 per cent for all utility rates combined.
Mayor Doug Holmes said rising costs have led to utility rate increases.
“Council has looked in every nook and cranny to find savings,” he said. “We’re putting off some equipment upgrades and holding back on non-essential operational matters like hiring co-op students. We’re also reducing planned allocations to reserves, including zero additional dollars into the water reserve.”
Water rates will increase by $11.50 a month or $138 for the year, increasing from $782 to $920.
Sewer rates are expected to increase by $3.67 a month or $44.04 for the year. This will increase the cost of sewer from $397 a year to $441 a year.
Electrical rates will increase by $14.26 a month or $171 a year. The total electrical bill for a typical house is expected to increase from $1,540 to $1,711 a year.
The combined total of all increases is $29.43 a month, or $353.16 a year.
The municipality will also match the provincial government’s utility credit of $100 for residential account holders.
This is estimated at $550,000 and will come from the electrical utility surplus amount in 2023. The remaining amount will be directed to electrical reserves.
Factors behind the increase include an increase in the wholesale cost of power from FortisBC, and rising costs for supplies needed for the community’s water system.
David Svetlichny, director of finance for Summerland, said the costs of water treatment chemicals have increased by almost 150 per cent over the past year, or close to $500,000. A one per cent increase in water rates brings in around $50,000.
Increases to utility rates have occurred in previous years as well. However, the total impact of all utility rate increases in 2022 was considerably lower, with a total increase of $101.15 a year.
The 2023 increases are coming at the same time as the municipality is preparing to amend its 10 per cent utility discount program, beginning Jan. 1.
At present, those who pay their utility bills on or before the deadline receive 10 per cent discount for paying on time. This discount is being replaced with a two per cent late payment policy, for those who pay after the due date.
This means a utility bill for $100 would increase to $102 if paid after the due date. Previously, the bill for $100 would be charged at $90 if paid on or before the due date.
Holmes said few communities still offer a discount program for utility bills. Penticton cancelled its program last year.
“While rewarding people who pay on time, a discount also serves to penalize those who struggle to make ends meet,” he said, adding that payment dates do not always align with paydays.
Graham Statt, chief administrative officer for Summerland, said the discount for early payment had been subsidized by the municipality.
“That cost us almost $2 million a year to subsidize,” he said.
The figures used for the 2022 utility rates were based on ratepayers being able to claim the 10 per cent discount, Statt said.
Those who have not been able to access this discount will have less of a financial impact than those who had been claiming the discount, he said.
The new rates and the removal of the discount must pass council adoption and will not take effect until 2023. The first utility bill for 2023, for the month of January, will not be mailed until February and will be due on Feb. 24, Statt said.
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