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Calgary city council looks at increasing utility rates

Calgary City Hall.
Calgary City Hall. Global News

Calgary city council has approved an indicative range of rates for water, wastewater and storm water services for the next four years.

The impact on a Calgary household from current rates to the year 2022 will range from an extra $13 a month to an additional $17 a month.

At its strategic meeting on Monday, council heard administration is planning for wastewater rates to go up between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent in each of the next four years and storm water rates to increase between 3.5 to five per cent each year.

READ MORE: City of Calgary to absorb cost of unusually high water bills

Water rates will be in a range from zero to half a per cent increase depending on what kind of new development is allowed to be built over the next few years.

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The increases are necessary to continue to pay off debt and for upgrades required water treatment plants for environmental considerations. While council has made a change that builders pay for full development of water services, there is still debt from when the city fronted the costs of the service.

Only Councillor Jeromy Farkas voted against the indicative rates.

“I thought at this point it was premature especially given that council hasn’t made some really serious decisions on which new communities to build and our approach to growth going forward.” he said.

The utility rates are on top of indicative property tax rates that were approved by council in late April. Those rates are 2.65 to 3.45 per cent for 2019 and 2.5 to three per cent in each of the years from 2020 to 2022.

READ MORE: Alberta single mom handed $2,700 water bill: ‘It’s impossible’

Despite the increases, Mayor Naheed Nenshi doesn’t feel it will be a bad-news budget.

“Oh no, not at all. This is shaping up to be a very realistic budget,” he said.

“We’re talking about hikes that are really close to inflation and population growth and we’re talking about catching up with sins of the past on utilities.”

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Administration continues to work on the four-year budget that will be up for debate in November.

Meanwhile council on Monday approved going forward with a plan to improve budget transparency. While there is an online calculator on the city’s website, that’s not good enough for Councillor Peter Demong.

“Plain and simple, I want to have more transparency on how we’re investing citizen taxpayer money,” he said.

“There’s a ravenous appetite from people who say, ‘Hey, I give you several thousand dollars a year. What are you spending it on?'”

Demong says the city does a much better job than the province or federal government in telling the public where taxes go but people are always looking for more information.

“To be able to personalize it and say: ‘Out of your own personal $2,500 or $3,000 in property tax, you’re paying $380 or $512 for police services,’ that gives you the connection that lets you grasp what it’s all about.”