Council tables rate increases
TORONTO — Toronto Council has agreed to table the third reading for increases to the city’s water, sewer and garbage rates after hearing from residents who asked them to consider other options.
Speaking on behalf of several citizens who came to Monday’s council meeting, David Core said the increases will unfairly burden lower income households.
He conceded that city officials seem to have reasonable cause for raising the rates but suggested they explore other measures, such as raising rates for the city’s industrial water customers.
First Ward Councilman Bob Bertram, who chairs the city’s water-sewer customers, said higher rate increases are needed to make up for little or minimal increases in recent years.
But Bertram said he was open to the residents’ input and invited Core to represent them at a future meeting of the water-sewer board.
Council supported a motion by Bertram to table what would have been the final reading for the rates increases.
If approved, the city’s monthly water rate would have been raised from $25 per 2,000 gallons to $30.50 for January’s bills and to $31 for 2023. Its monthly sewer rates would have been raised from $30 to $35 for January’s bills and to $45 for 2023.
Rates for customers who use more than 2,000 gallons per month would have been raised from $8.50 to $9.50 for each 1,000 gallons after that for January’s bills and to $10 for each 1,000 gallons after 2,000 gallons for 2023.
The city’s monthly garbage rate for residents would have been raised from $13.75 to $15 for January’s bills and to $15.50 for 2023.
Council also would have been able to raise the three rates by 3 percent each year after that, though it would retain the right not to or to consider a larger increase if deemed necessary.
Core said such an increase exceeds current inflation rates while adding language for the city’s 0.5 percent income tax up for renewal on Nov. 2 states it serves in part for “the reduction of refuse rates.”
Following the meeting, Core said, “I had an idea that a few (council members) were on board with tabling it. I didn’t expect all of them to.”
“I’m glad they listened to reason. That’s the important thing,” he added.
Bertram and other city officials said earlier the increases are needed to meet current operational costs and upcoming projects.
The latter includes the federally mandated replacement of old, lead lines and combined wastewater and stormwater lines leading to the Ohio River, replacement of aging lines prone to breaks and installation of a new roof on the sewer plant.
Mayor John Parker confirmed industries and other higher end water users pay more per 1,000 gallons than residents, the city doesn’t have a separate commercial water rate.
He said it may be possible to prioritize future projects and pursue them in phases to reduce the financial impact on customers.