The change essentially means the RDCK staff will bill each system by the hour for work done on that system. It’s part of the regional district’s long-term goal of making water system users cover the actual costs of maintaining their system. File photo

The change essentially means the RDCK staff will bill each system by the hour for work done on that system. It’s part of the regional district’s long-term goal of making water system users cover the actual costs of maintaining their system. File photo

Some water users face cost increases as RDCK changes billing formula

The district wants water system users to cover the actual costs of maintaining their system

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

People who get their water from RDCK-managed community systems will now see their utility bills include the cost of staff time spent to maintain them.

The regional government’s Rural Affairs Committee approved changes to the Environmental Services Fee at its meeting Nov. 18. The motion was ratified by the RDCK board the next day.

The change essentially means the RDCK staff will bill each system by the hour for work done on that system. It’s part of the regional district’s long-term goal of making water system users cover the actual costs of maintaining their system.

Half the hours billed will be tied directly to the water system receiving the service, while the other half will be shared out amongst all water systems. Larger systems or ones needing significant work would see the largest increases under the new billing structure. Some that need little or no maintenance will see smaller increases. Staff also had a suggestion to cushion against sudden rate shocks.

“It is staff’s suggestion that in the future, averages of hours spent in water systems over multiple years be used to determine ES Fees, in order to moderate the cost changes from year-to-year that are created through projects or severe water system challenges from multiple leaks or other unforeseen incidents,” the report says.

Still, the changes would mean an extra Environmental Service Fee of $212 per connection for residents of the Woodbury Village subdivision near Kaslo, $121 more for Rosebery Highland users, while residents on Edgewood’s community system would pay about $78 extra, compared to the 2019 rate. Those increases don’t include other general costs charged to users by each system.

A comparative chart showed several communities in the Valley Voice readership area facing substantial increases: Woodbury – 42 connections share $8,939; Edgewood – 91 connections share $7,179; Fauquier – 94 connections share $4,707; McDonald Creek – 68 connections share $3,485; Denver Siding – 20 connections share $2,668; Burton – 56 connections share $2,033; Rosebery Highlands – 14 connections share $1,702.

The change could hurt people with lower incomes, staff advised RDCK directors.

“Some of the options in this report are anticipated to create financial hardship for some lower income households in a couple of water systems,” the report states.

“In some small water systems the cost of providing water to residents is projected to exceed the $2,000/year threshold and with that threatens the affordability for low-income families. Full and detailed cost accounting comes at an additional cost and often affects these small water systems the most in regards to shifting cost of water to a full user-pay system.”

The RDCK manages about 19 community water systems and employs about six staff. Staffing and directly associated costs is the department’s largest line item, and budgeted at about $816,000 for 2020.

– Valley Voice

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