Most user fees will jump by three percent in the new year although some will be rising more as the town strives to generate more revenue to run its landfill.
At a special meeting Monday, council voted 4-3 in favour of bags tags staying at $2 for a second-straight year as opposed to going up to $2.25.
Residents also will continue to receive one “free” bag of garbage for pickup each week.
But tipping fees at the local landfill will be going up. The minimum charge will jump from $16 to $18 while the per tonnage fee will climb from $64 to $65.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, who chairs the Operations and Facilities executive committee, noted the town’s long-term goal is to move towards full cost recovery with its waste management and be self-sufficient, just as other municipalities in Ontario are being urged to do by the province.
But it has been going in the opposite direction.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said that in 2011, the town budgeted a loss of $125,647 for waste management. Without any increase to the cost of bag tags or tipping fees in 2012, the shortfall was projected to be $147,406.
In an interview yesterday, Coun. Wiedenhoeft explained that revenues at the landfill have declined due to fewer trucks dumping off waste while the cost to ship recyclables, which also have increased in volume, has gone up.
“As we increase our recycling, our costs go up,” he noted. “There’s no revenue side of that, either; everything recycling is costing us.
“Therein lies the problem—we’re recycling more and less is going to the garbage dump, so our revenues are down when you base it on per tonne that’s going to the garbage dump.
“There’s less trucks going there, as well.”
Coun. Wiedenhoeft admitted council “hasn’t kept pace with our increased costs.”
“We haven’t really raised our rates all that much,” he reasoned. “We’ve only been raising them equal to inflation.
“But because of decreased revenue, that small increase to match inflation hasn’t really balanced our loss in revenue,” he stressed.
“That’s why we’re headed in the wrong direction.”
Brown originally had proposed in the 2012 user fee schedule that bag tags go up to $2.25, flat rate tipping go up to $16.50, and per tonnage go up to $64.11.
But the majority of council ultimately decided Monday that instead of increasing the cost of bag tags, the other two fees should be increased instead (to $18 and $65, respectively, as mentioned above).
Coun. Ken Perry said he remains “dead against” bag tags, reasoning the cost of waste management should be included in taxes and not dependent on revenues from bag tags.
The more people recycle, the further and further the town “will go into the red.”
“Someday we might not have any bags of garbage—that’s the dream, right?” Coun. Perry remarked. “That’s the reality of it—the more recycling we do, the less we’re going to have in the way of garbage bags, so where are we going to get the money other than taxation?
“There’s not going to be any garbage to collect if we keep going the way we are—that’s the dream,” he reiterated. “But we are still going to have pay for the facility out there.”
“We gotta look into the future,” said Coun. Paul Ryan. “We’ve gotta start putting some money away.
“I agree with having this utility stand on its own, but it can’t be done overnight,” he stressed.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
The majority of user fees will be hiked by three percent, as per the Consumer Price Index, with the exceptions being fees that otherwise are legislated (i.e., lottery licences) or those that are reflective of cost recovery at the present rate and don’t need to be changed.
Most user fees will kick in Jan. 1 although some others, such as those for the Memorial Sports Centre, won’t come into effect until June 1 because ice rental fees, for example, already have been contracted out for the 2011-12 season.
The new user fee rates also do not include sewer and water rates.
Rather, these will be looked at separately in the new year, with the aim to have the 2012 sewer and water rates set before the end of February.
The 2012 user fee schedule now will come forth as a bylaw to be finalized at a future council meeting.
The majority of user fees for 2011 were hiked by 1.7 percent.
Some exceptions to the three percent increase are as follows:
•the rental cost of the Townshend Theatre will remain the same in 2012 as it is now.
(A couple of years ago, the town raised theatre fees by 25 percent and that is sufficient for now. But the theatre committee will be looking at increasing the surtax charged for theatre users, with any increase to be made only in agreement with the local public school board).
•slip rental fees at the Sorting Gap Marina will be decreased by 15 percent in 2012; and
•non-resident user fees will continue to be set 25 percent higher than resident user fees (this is to try and address the disparity between how much residents pay through taxation to run town facilities and how much non-residents pay to use them).
Town council also received a request from the Fort Frances Museum to put out a donation box to collect donations from visitors, as opposed to user fees, during the off-season (Thanksgiving to Victoria Day) for a two-year trial basis.
Council agreed this was a good idea—as long as the museum still tracks attendance during that time.
Also Monday, council referred a long-range financial plan for the town’s water and wastewater system, prepared by BMA Consultants to meet Ontario Regulation 453/07, to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for its recommendation.