The mayor of La Ronge says he respects the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s input but contends the organization doesn’t have all the background behind the town’s proposed water and sewer rate hikes.
The town will be applying for a 30 per cent increase next year and another 30 per cent increase the following year.
But if other cost-saving measures can’t be implemented, water and sewer bills will triple within five years.
The taxpayers’ federation says it has rarely heard of a similar rate hike anywhere in the nation.
Mayor Thomas Sierzycki says the fact the town is subsidizing 49 per cent of the cost of producing water is forcing it to delay long-awaited upgrades – including the installation of generators that would allow the water to run during power outages.
The Saskatchewan Municipal Board will make a decision by mid-November over whether to accept the town’s proposed rate hike
Sierzycki says he’s not sure what the town council will do if the application is rejected.
“If it isn’t passed, I really don’t know what our options are aside from increases,” he says. “Perhaps we’ll have to stretch them out over a longer period of time. That won’t help us in the bottom line – and that’s really why these increases were looked at. They were positioned so that we could alleviate some of the stress on the subsidization side of things and making sure that we we’re in the position in the future to invest into capital expenditures.”
Sierzycki notes there have been other Canadian municipalities that have been forced to implement a substantial rate hike over a short period of time.
“The Saskatchewan Water Association, in 2010, increased (the monthly rate) $4 to $6 for the average household in Martensville, Hague – these communities that use SaskWater. Across the nation, we’re seeing it. In 2014, Halifax over two years was a 28 per cent increase in water bills for their residents. So we’re seeing it from a large city aspect, we’re seeing it from smaller towns, we’re seeing it from villages.”
He also notes Nipawin residents currently pay $114 per month for their water while La Ronge customers have been paying $55 a month.
Having said this, the mayor encourages local residents to actively monitor the actions of the town council.
“When we did have our readings, it’s gone to the public. It’s advertised in the newspaper, on our website, that these readings are taking place for the appropriate bylaws. It’s a good reminder to people to stay involved and stay close to the ground in terms of what your municipal officials are doing.”
The proposed measure still has to pass third reading at the town council level, something Sierzycki says will happen shortly.