Kevin Anderson

KAPUSKASING – Kapuskasing residents can expect to see a 10 per cent hike in their water bill and a 30 per cent hike in their sewer bill, after council voted Monday to accept the 2019 water and sewer budgets.

Council is beginning the transition to a usage-based system as mandated by the government. Previously, a portion of water and sewer costs were calculated based on a property’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assessment.

This means that property owners will see a drop in their municipal tax bill since water and sewer have been removed.

The effect of the new usage-based system will vary from property to property.

For example, the “average family of four” in a dwelling with a value of $100,000 is likely to see little to no change in their annual costs since it will save on its municipal tax bill, but be paying more for water and sewer, allowing the two to offset each other. Other residences falling outside of that “average” will likely see a fluctuation in their costs either one way or the other.

The biggest difference is likely to be felt by business and industry.

A large department store for example, is likely to see a significant decrease in its municipal tax bill, since water and sewer are no longer tied to MPAC assessment and as a rule, these types of businesses are not likely to have a high rate of water consumption.

A business with a much smaller geographic footprint, but a high rate of consumption (i.e. carwash) will likely take a significant hit under the new system because no part of water or sewer any longer tied to the MPAC assessment.

If there is a silver lining to be found, it is that the rate hike could have been much higher for both water and sewer.

Both systems are required to be self-sustaining. In order to do this strictly through a rate augmentation, the municipality would have had to raise the water rate 22 per cent and the sewer rate by 58 per cent.

Deciding this just wasn’t feasible, the municipality has chosen to dip into its reserves, pulling $38,000 for water and $176,744 for sewer in order to help defray the cost to taxpayers.

“We’re pulling out of the reserves this year, but it’s not a practice that we’re going to be able to continue indefinitely,” said Town of Kapuskasing CAO, Guylain Baril. “Eventually, the water and sewer services will have to be self-sustaining financially, with only the portion of reserves dedicated for water and sewer allowed to be used for those purposes.”

Baril continued, saying he understood the whole transition from the partially MPAC-based system to the usage-based system may be somewhat confusing to some.

“We encourage anyone with questions to come and see us at the Civic Centre,” said Baril. “We’ll be happy to go over people’s bills with them and explain how and why the change has affected them.”