Parksville’s water rates will go up by three per cent this year, maintaining the rate structure the city put in place in 2010.
Council introduced the new three tier rate structure last year to encourage conservation and planned to phase it in over a few years, but residential water use dropped 23 per cent in the first year, catching staff and council off guard.
Due to the success of the first step council decided in March to delay the next planned step for residents which would further penalize heavy users and reward light users, but go ahead with the commercial rate increase since their water use only declined one per cent.
Now time to consider the second year rates, council received a report from staff on June 20 with four basic options.
Director of finance Lucky Butterworth said the options were based on the assumption that council wanted to continue encouraging conservation, costs would go up three per cent and usage would drop another 10 per cent.
He added that with the weather so far this summer it was looking quite possible use would drop by more than 10 per cent, which would reduce revenues.
Council agreed they want to consider the options in detail, but decided it was best to leave things as simple as possible, having educated the public on the new tiered system and wanting more data on the impact before they change things again.
Of the 3,900 residential water customers in the city, most residences use less than 200 cubic metres a year, (540 litres a day) while a small handful use over 1,500 cubic metres a year, highlighting the need for more conservation.
Acting mayor Chris Burger said they want to reward the lowest users and all of council liked the idea of a fixed fee system, which charges a fixed base rate of just $68 per six-month billing period — the fixed cost of having the city water service connected to a house — plus a charge starting with the first litre, rather than a base cost of $114 covering the first 90 cubic metres.
Council’s chosen option of sticking with the current tiered system plus a three per cent inflationary increase, is projected to produce a $37,000 shortfall but Butterworth pointed out they were $100,000 over in the last billing cycle.
In an open letter, Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce president Rudi Widdershoven said the city’s decision “demonstrates prudent fiscal management. To the city’s credit they are looking at all opportunities to conserve water to delay significant infrastructure upgrades.”