Water rates in Nelson will go up by 2.5 per cent, sewer rates by two per cent and waste by 25 per cent for 2024.
These increases will cover inflation and allow the city to continue contributing to financial reserves used for capital projects such as additional water sources, water main replacements and the rebuilding of the sewage treatment plant, according to city staff at council’s Dec. 5 meeting.
The annual residential sewer fee will increase by $16 to $821. An early payment discount will reduce this to $738.90.
The annual water fee will increase by $11 to $440, or $396 with early payment.
There are different fees and increases for several categories of commercial and industrial users.
Water, sewer and garbage costs are not included in city property taxes but are paid for by households and businesses with an annual user fee.
The fee for garbage and recycling will go up by $25 (a 25 per cent increase)
This increase is largely attributable to the cost of the rollout of the organics collection (FoodCycler) program, as well as inflation and a 10 per cent increase in tipping fees — the fees charged whenever the city garbage truck drops waste at the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s depot or landfill.
In 2019 the garbage and recycling fee was $40, then it was increased to $75 in 2020 and 2021 to fund new recycle bins. The fee increased again to $100 in 2022 and 2023 to help fund the organics diversion program. The purpose of the upcoming $25 increase will be to further the organic collection program rollout and to cover inflation and equipment costs.
Documents presented to council show that in 2023 the projected year-end cost for organics diversion went over its $166,072 budget by $7,728 or 4.5 per cent. However the overall waste budget shows a projected surplus of $14,372 that will go to a capital reserve.
In the proposed budget for 2024, the cost allocated to the organics diversion is $202,826, an increase of $36,745 over the budgeted amount for 2023. The purpose of this increase, said city manager Kevin Cormack, is to continue the implementation of the program.
At the Dec. 5 meeting, Councillor Leslie Payne said that because the goal of the city is zero waste, she hopes the costs of handling waste will eventually go down, not up.
Mayor Janice Morrison said her household is an example of how this could happen. As one of the original participants in the pilot of the FoodCycler, Morrison has been using the device for three years. She said she now puts a bag of garbage on the curb every six weeks.
But she said it will take time for that kind of saving to show up in the city’s budget because of the continued need for equipment and staff to handle garbage, recycling and organics.
Cormack pointed out that the city is responsible only for collection of waste, but the material is received and handled by the Regional District of Central Kootenay. He said Nelson residents pay a share of that in the taxes they pay to the RDCK each year.