Kenora ratepayers are starting to get a better picture, when it comes to their bills in the new year.

Before setting rates for property tax bills, councillors are still waiting on education amounts, which are also part of the municipal property tax levy.

Even without a change in tax rates, city staff note home owners could still see a change in their property tax bill, if their property value assessment changes.

However, during their monthly committee of the whole on Tuesday, Coun. Sharon Smith defended the city's decision not to increase water rates this year.

"Council voted not to increase rates by the recommended 3.1 per cent in 2021, due to the COVID crisis," she said Tuesday.

When deciding against a rate increase last fall, councillors noted ratepayers are already paying over $125 a month on average for 10 cubic metres a month, and they're going to be up in the $150 a month range, which could present issues for affordability.

"But if the recommendations and financial plan are not followed, ratepayers will soon be back to 10 per cent and eight per cent rate increases," Smith continued. 

Water rates have been the source of controversy in recent years for the city, as they worked with the consultants, the province and ratepayers to bring reserve funds for future maintenance up to a more acceptable level. The province-wide order sparked a series of increases, and the move to include multi-unit properties with only one meter was also contentious. 

Grants from federal and provincial governments have helped ease the burden, along with the prospect of future development that may provide more ratepayers to help carry the cost of maintenance for the user-pay system. An agreement with neighbouring Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation is also helping.  

Councilor Andrew Poirier had suggested the city look at longer-term financing for some of their projects, in order to get more value for their money. He noted many water and sewer lines can last 50 to 60 years, and the city has about $40 million in their Prosperity Fund they can use to help pay for some maintenance costs. However, council decided not to follow his suggestion.

Water and sewer users in Dryden pay $2.14 per cubic metre in addition to fixed rates of $61.22, assuming it's for a 5/8 inch residential line. Assuming most residential customers use 15 cubic metres a month, the would be about $125.42 for an average month.  

In Sioux Lookout, users pay a bit of a lower rate for consumption at $1.47 per cubic metre for water and $1.34 per cubic metre for sewer services. However, the increase for 2020 was $18.68 a month or $224.18 a year, and it was supposed to be the same increase for the next four years. However, council reconsidered the rate increase for 2021, in light of the pandemic. In 2015, the monthly rate was $119.40 a month.

For more information:

City revisits water bills