This week, Kitchener City Council was presented with a 2016 Operating Budget that proposed large rate increases for water utilities (water, wastewater, storm sewer). You can see the budget here, and read the news here. The rate for water consumption, as presented, is due to increase by 7.6%. In a close 6-5 vote, Council asked staff to model numbers and actions based on 6.6% and 5.6% increases instead.
There’s been a flurry of news and social media items on these increases. Municipal staff argue that the increases are warranted and necessary, given the backlog of expensive maintenance required. Some people argue that no tax increase can ever be justified, while others argue that money well spent on services required and needed in the city is worthwhile and proper.
How does Kitchener’s water rates compare to its municipal neighbours? The chart below shows you. Bear in mind, though, that the number never tell the whole story. Some key points to remember are:
- These figures do not explain why rates are what they are. A city might have a lot of maintenance to do. Or it may not. It may be taking on an appropriate number of projects, over-extending itself, or wilfully neglecting work given the will of the of the people. Either way, the figures are values and nothing more. Determining more relative figures such an opportunity cost or ROI is far more significant, and far more complicated.
- These figures show only water consumption rates. This is very important.
- There are many ways that a city will determine water charges. Stormwater charges and water service charges (e.g., the cost to administer the service outside of maintaining the flow of water in pipes to your residence).
- A water utility rate in one city may not be comparable to the same rate in another town.
- These figures compare only the cities present in table against one another. The bustling town of East Podunk, Ont., may have incredibly low or high rates, which would skew the scale considerably.
The following chart shows water consumption rates for Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, the Townships, and also the City of Guelph. I have taken stormwater rates out of the equation since there are appear to be differences in how these charges apply from city to another. Administrative surcharges are not included, either.
All values above and sources below are current as of 24 November 2015. Sources include budget documents as well as municipal websites.