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Surplus too big?

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Just like Ontario electrical users, Fort Frances residents have shown they can reduce the amount of water they use in their households.

Yes, town residents actually used less processed water in 2016 than they did in the previous year. In fact, Fort Frances residents use less water than the average household in the province.

That is really good news.

The other piece of good news—in terms of the town budget process—is that the billings for water usage in the community (Fort Frances homeowners currently pay $39.20 per month for water and $36.57 per month for sewer services) created a sizeable surplus in 2016.

Now comes the big surprise. Town council likely will be putting through a 2.5 percent increase in water and sewer rates at its next meeting. One must ask: “If current rates, with falling household water usage, are creating surpluses, why is a rate increase being planned?”

The 2016 surplus was $103,974, which will be added to the reserve fund. But Fort Frances’ annual water and sewer fees already include almost $1.5 million for reserve funds.

It doesn’t make sense. Or maybe it does as council is taking a page from the Kathleen Wynne electrical rate changes. Yes, as Ontarians used less electricity (as encouraged by the province), the province and Ontario Hydro made up the shortfall of revenues by putting through large electrical rate increases.

Fort Frances council must be expecting water and sewer revenue shortages to be planning to increase rates to homeowners.

We ask: “How big should the surplus be before a zero increase is required, and how much money should be stashed into reserves?”

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