Utilities board to review proposed rate increases


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Higher Brandon utility rates have taken one step closer toward reality.

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Higher Brandon utility rates have taken one step closer toward reality.

As required, the city shared a notice Friday afternoon in which the Public Utilities Board announced it will review the Brandon’s proposed increases, although Mayor Jeff Fawcett pointed out that the fees detailed in the request are the same proposed in a utility rate study delivered to council in last July.

As such, there are no surprises in the proposed rates contained in the board’s notification of its review.

This table shows proposed water rates for the City of Brandon, to be reviewed by the Public Utilities Board. The city has said the reason for the rate hikes include a utility operation deficit, upgrades to the water treatment plant and transfers to reserves for such initiatives as the south-end wastewater project. (Public Utilities Board)

“There’s nothing that wasn’t already forecast,” Fawcett told the Sun on Friday afternoon.

City council gave first reading to the bylaw that would bring higher utility rates last July. The bylaw can be set for second and third reading once the PUB reviews the application.

Fawcett said Brandonites will get a chance to provide input on the new rates. The city has requested the PUB hold a public hearing as part of its review and approval process, although it is up to the board to decide whether a public hearing is needed.

The city’s application to the PUB consists of two requests that would set rates for 2023 to 2026.

The first is for water and wastewater deficit riders that would charge citizens 19 cents and 21 cents per cubic metre, respectively, for the next four years, starting July 1. These charges are requested to help the city pay down the $15,869,919 utility operating deficit, as required by the PUB. Fawcett said part of the reason for the deficit was a five-year freeze on water rates.

The second request is for increases to a variety of utility rates. The rationale for the increases, as outlined in the utility rate study include paying the deficit, transfers to reserves for future projects, covering borrowing for water treatment facility upgrades, increased costs for running water and wastewater services.

Reasons for increased rates also include the cost of borrowing for the southwest wastewater project that will see the construction of two lift stations to support future development in that portion of the city. The city is borrowing $30 million for the project, although Fawcett has said it accounts for only seven to 10 per cent of the utility rate increases.

The board notes that it may set different rates than those requested by the city.

» ihitchen@brandonsun.com

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