Questions about rates in Toronto

To the editor:

Toronto City Council is considering legislation concerning a rate increase for municipal water and garbage removal services. The argument that’s been put forward favoring the increase includes the need for a new truck, repairs to the roof at the water filtration facility, federally mandated replacements to underground pipes and a $125,000 shortfall in the department’s budget. Obviously, all these things are costly and are very probably legitimate expenses, but let’s look at the proposal a little closer and consider other factors.

First, what exactly is being proposed and how much revenue can it be expected to generate during the next 10 years? According to the Herald-Star, the proposal increases water rates by $5.50, sewer usage rate increases by $10, and garbage removal would increase by $1.75 per month effective Dec. 1. Usage rates for water would also go up by $1 for each 1,000 gallons over the 2,000 gallons per month included in the rate. A year later the water rate would be increased again by an additional $6, trash removal would increase another $50.50, and additional water usage would increase by another $50.50 per each 1,000 gallons used over the monthly allotted 2,000.

Overall, this means by 2023 each household in the city will pay $23.75 more than they are now for the basic monthly services, as well as $1.50 more for every thousand gallons over the 2,000 gallons per month included in the basic services. That’s $285 per year in addition to what residents are currently paying from every household in the city.

According to the most recent census information, there are 2,275 households in Toronto, so this totals $648,375 more per year not counting the additional revenue from extra water usage. During 10 years, this will mean an additional windfall for the city water department of more than $6.5 million to pay for a truck, a roof and some pipe replacement — and that’s also not including the recommendation being proposed that rates increase by 3 percent every year after the new rates go into effect, which is a compounded increase on the entirety of all extant rates plus the proposed increase.

What wasn’t mentioned in the discussions is that a few years ago the city foolishly took out a $2 million loan to run water lines to the extension at the end of Nebo Drive with no plan in place for how to recoup that money if the properties didn’t sell. Spoiler alert, so far, they’ve not been selling. But even if they had, how long would it take to recoup $2 million (plus interest) from a dozen families at the current water rates? Meanwhile, Toronto’s losing about 1 percent of its population every year. Is raising water rates by nearly 20 percent really the best way to reverse this attrition?

So, here’s the call-to-action part. I’m asking city residents to pressure council members to table this proposal before the third reading next Monday until such time as these reasonable questions have been addressed.

J. David Core



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