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Toronto Council approves rate increases

RATE INCREASES DISCUSSED — On Monday, Toronto Council approved the first reading for water, sewer and garbage collection. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — Citing a need to meet rising costs to operate the city’s water, sewer and sanitation departments and address a $125,000 deficit in the water department, Toronto City Council has taken the first step in adopting rate increases for the three services.

On Monday, council approved the first reading of an ordinance for the first set of incremental rate hikes for water, sewer and garbage customers.

Two subsequent readings will determine their implementation on Dec. 1 for the January billing period.

If approved, the minimum monthly charge for the city’s water customers will rise from $25 to $30.50 and the minimum monthly charge for sewer customers will rise from $25 to $35.

The rates are based on the use of 2,000 gallons of water or less.

For customers who use more than 2,000 gallons, the rate will increase from $8.50 to $9.50 for each 1,000 gallons above that.

Plans call for the monthly minimum sewer rate to be increased again, to $35, and for the monthly minimum water rate to be increased, to $31, in 2023.

In 2023, customers who use more than 2,000 gallons will pay $10 for each 1,000 gallons used after that.

The monthly bill for the city’s garbage customers is slated to rise from $13.75 to $15 in December and $15.50 in 2023.

The current minimum monthly rate for water and sewer customers is $25 each.

Fifth Ward Councilman Bob Bertram, who chairs the city’s water-sewer committee, said the rate increases come after much discussion about the costs to operate the three departments, which he said have exceeded the revenue generated by the city’s rates.

Bertram and others on the committee noted in most cases, rate increases have been minimal or non-existent. He noted there were no increases for water or sewer rates in 2017 and 2018 and no raise to the water rate in 2019, though the sewer rate was risen by $6 that year.

They added water and sewer rates each were raised by 50 cents in each of the last two years.

In recent months the committee has met with city department heads to discuss upcoming needs.

They included the federally mandated replacement of old lead lines and separation of combined wastewater and stormwater lines leading to the Ohio River, replacement of aging lines where many breaks have occurred and repairs or replacements to the water and sewer plants, including the latter’s roof.

Bertram said the city’s 2003 garbage truck also will need to be replaced, at an estimated cost of $156,000.

City officials also have expressed hope in using about $351,342 awarded through the federal American Rescue Plan and securing loans and grants to pursue some projects.

Julie Ward, an independent utilities consultant working with the committee, has recommended the city implement a 3 percent annual rate increase for the three services in 2024.

In other business, council:

– Agreed to adopt a resolution of sympathy for the family of Rosemary Tarullli Rebres, a clerk in the city’s utilities department for many years, who died Saturday at the age of 81.

– Approved trick-or-treat hours of 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 30.

Its next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m Oct. 11 at the City Building.

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