Nelson city council has approved the 2024 rate increases for water, sewer, and waste, totaling 3.9 per cent.
In the new year, property owners will see a two per cent monthly increase in water, a 2.5 per cent increase for sewer, and a $25 annual increase in waste.
For a single-family dwelling, the increases combined will be about $50 in total, equaling an annual charge of $1,259.90.
Residential customers have seen significant increases in resource recovery fees over the last five years. Between 2019 and 2023, the fees have increased from $40 to $100 per year.
Chris Jury, the city’s chief financial officer, presented the 2024 water, sewer, and waste budget in November. He said the increase in waste fees over the last five years is due to the blue bin program rollout in 2020 and the rollout of organic diversion programs.
Customers had a break from the growing fees this year; however, Jury explained how that resulted in the budget surpassing what was allocated for waste due to the city’s organic diversion program rollout.
He says the FoodCycler pilot is partially why the fees are increasing in the new year; he projects the fee to continue to grow as the pilot expands citywide.
“The [waste] fees slightly are above where we had anticipated them to be. We did receive some grants for the FoodCycler program to help us in operations as well and some wage subsidies. We are trending a little over on the organics side, but that’s because we deployed additional resources to try and roll out this program.”
City manager Kevin Cormack says the jump from 2019 to 2023 was inevitable whether the city invested in the FoodCycler organic diversion program or not.
“That fee increase is going to reflect some inflation on the waste side and recycling side as well as organics. So I wouldn’t equate the jump from 2019 to 2023 and say that’s all organics. Part of that would be just those other programs, waste, recycling, and organics. Four years ago that $75 fee was basically covering waste and recycling, not organics.”
If the organics pilot succeeds and moves into a citywide rollout, the budget projects waste fees to jump up to $160 by 2025 and continue to increase up to $215 by 2033.
Jury explains that if a citywide rollout occurs, more money will need to be allocated into the waste reserve to eventually pay for equipment repairs.
“Once we have a full program out there, if it’s the FoodCycler program, we may need to look in 2025 at how we manage those revenues and costs and look at a further increase in the fee. The intent here is that when we get to the seventh year of this program and the warranty period on these FoodCyclers end, we want to have enough in our reserves so that we can start to replace these.”
He doesn’t know how and when the devices will need to be replaced but explains that the city needs to be in a position to maintain the program by 2030.
“By that 2030 period, we should at least have started building up our reserve fund at the time that we would need to go out and start replacing those. At what rate that replacement is, it’s difficult to tell at this time, but we want to be in a positive position so we could move ahead with that.”
Cormack explains that although the program may appear to be an expensive investment now, it will pay out in the long run if the program successfully is able to reduce the city’s weight volume goal of more than 40 per cent.
“Right now, organic waste is in our garbage stream, and we pay tipping fees [to the RDCK] on the weight of the garbage we deliver. So the program should dramatically reduce the weight of garbage. When we see that reduction in waste volume, the overall effect will be less exposure to tipping fees.”
Council approved increases on Tuesday; they will come into effect on Jan. 1.