Sewer fees need adjustment soon

·2 min read

KERWOOD - As the township begins work on the 2021 budget, council hopes to cross one big-ticket item off their to-do list - updates to the Kerwood Waste Water Treatment Plant (KWWTP) user fees. A report from December outlined what must happen to balance the books.

The current KWWTP fee schedule was passed on 18 October 2010 and has remained unchanged since. Users pay an annual fee of $675, added to their tax bill. The municipality rakes in around $36,450 from those users.

Past budgets show the municipality losing money on the facility. In 2019, KWWTP expenses were $96,954, but only $91,422 was generated from sewer fees and taxes. In the 2020 budget, $112,160 was allocated to operational costs with $83,410 projected for revenue. That difference ($28,750) is the amount the municipality hopes to recoup from the 56 connected properties, by way of updated fees.

User fees in most municipalities are updated yearly, meaning incremental increases. However, that just isn’t something the small municipality has done. Increasing the fees entirely would mean huge jumps for affected residents. Staff say it is likely that new fees would be phased-in over a number of years.

The municipality contributes $25,000 yearly for the KWWTP reserve, which currently sits at around $516,000. The facility is 11 years old; maintenance needs often increase after 10-15 years for this type of facility.

Additionally, the current fee schedule does not account for multi-unit residences, of which the village has a few now. One example came during a 21 December 2020 council meeting when a landowner sought approval for two additional units in their home (basement apartment plus garage apartment). Currently, that ratepayer would pay the same as a single-family household. As multi-unit housing becomes more common, and if Kerwood sees future growth, consideration for that will be needed.

It’s a common story - the numbers likely just aren’t there to support this type of facility, but Ministry requirements still must be met. Council directed staff to collect information; a user fee report will come before council in the first half of 2021. From there, council will be tasked with the tough decision.

McKinley Leonard-Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner