Thompson city council passed a resolution to add outstanding water bill amounts from before Dec. 31 to property tax bills at their May 9 meeting.
The resolution was tabled at the April 11 council meeting after some councillors suggested that some of the delinquent accounts might belong to people who were in the process of resolving billing disputes with the city. However, city manager Anthony McInnis said May 9 that none of the names of people with billing concerns that were submitted by councillors are included in the list of overdue accounts.
“I personally can’t not support a resolution once the information that I requested was given back to me,” said Coun. Les Ellsworth. “Now I have to trust the process.”
As of April 6, 1,336 water utility customers’ accounts owed $92.76 of more as of last Dec. 31. Nearly 1,000 of those are active accounts, which is close to 25 per cent of the 4,009 customers the utility has.
About 400 of the overdue accounts belong to renters while the rest are property owners’ accounts.
The number of delinquent accounts is up about 46 per cent from last year, when there were 917, but the amount owing on this year’s overdue accounts is nearly $200,000 less than the overall amount owing last year.
The total number of customers whose overdue accounts are eligible to be added to property taxes has nearly doubled since 2017.
Coun. Jeff Fountain said he couldn’t support transferring overdue amounts to property taxes because the city has still not created an appeals process through which customers can formally appeal their bills if they suspect their water meter is not functioning, for example. Ellsworth suggested that formal discussions about creating an appeal process, which council agreed to in principle earlier this year, should begin at a committee of the whole meeting in about a month’s time.
Third reading of the water and wastewater rates bylaw was originally on the agenda for the May 9 meeting but was removed at the outset of the meeting. The Public Utilities Board recently approved Thompson’s rate request, which will see the minimum quarterly charge for residential customers go up about 8.5 per cent, to $100.76 every three months from $92.76 right now. The new combined consumption rate for water and wastewater is set to go up about 13 per cent, to $5.60 per cubic metre from the current $4.93. Additional consumption rates begin to accumulate once residential customers use more than the 14 cubic metres included as part of the minimum quarterly fee.
Water meters only record water consumption and wastewater use is calculated as being equal to that amount for billing purposes.
Those changes are expected to take effect July 1, provided third reading of the bylaw passes.