By Kenyon Stronski Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Taber Times Town council has started to explore new utility rates for residents. The new utility rates for 2022 were proposed at the Aug. 16 council meeting and administration explained the town is currently in a $1.2 million deficit where utilities are concerned, so it was proposed to raise the price. Council did not accept this proposition, and instead directed administration to come up with a five-year plan that would incrementally raise utility rates, but lower tax rates. The proposed rates were to raise residential and commercial wastewater by 57.5 per cent, storm water by 61.5 per cent, and garbage and recycling by six per cent. The budget has been higher than the revenue for everything but water, which was not slated to rise. Revenue from taxes has been the only thing cushioning the utility loss. Coun. Garth Bekkering noted if you increase the utilities, then you should give a break on the tax side. “It is my view that unless we have a decrease in tax rate I will not be in favour of this.” “I would agree with Councillor Bekkering,” commented Mayor Andrew Prokop, “It is a very practical possibility and any chance we can get to reduce taxes is always a favourable solution.” Other councillors agreed with Prokop’s assessment. “I was in favour before, but now that I see the concerning impact on the community’s utility bill it concerns me, and it also concerns me that it could decrease economic development in our town,” added Coun. Carly Firth. Administration further explained the economic impacts that could come to the town. “Yes, there is a very big incline on utility bills, as high as almost $225 a month. If we’re looking to bring businesses to town, there will be an impact on this,” said Director of Public Works Gary Scherer. “All things considered, I echo all your suggestions. It’s a tough pill to swallow if we go this route so I think that Councillor Firth and Councillor Bekkering make perfect sense. So maybe it would be best to come back with something suitable,” added Prokop. Bekkering made a motion to come up with a five-year plan to increase, but also have a possible reduction in residential and commercial taxation, which was carried. It is slated to return to council by December of this year.
Kenyon Stronski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times