Town looking at sewer, water rates

The Town of Fort Frances is continuing to work through its 2005 budget process, with a special lunchtime committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday being the most recent of discussions.
“The budget process is going very well,” said Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig. “The biggest issue we’re looking at right now is water and sewer rates.”
He noted with stricter regulations coming down the pipe from the province, Fort Frances, like all other municipalities across Ontario, is having to look at its rates and determine how much it will need to charge to be self-funding in the operation of the utilities while maintaining the new provincial standards.
McCaig added the town, again like many elsewhere in the province, has an aging infrastructure in regards to water and sewage. And having to comply with the new regulations will translate into making repairs and, thus, spending more money.
He said the town is in the process of comparing its sewer and water rates with other municipalities, but added no increases have been decided upon yet.
McCaig noted town management and council also have begun looking at its capital budget for the year ahead. While some cuts have been made to it, this part of the process is ongoing.
The most recent version of the operating budget revealed Tuesday shows a shortfall of around $240,000, said treasurer Peggy Dupuis.
At the last budget meeting held Nov. 30, the town was looking at a shortfall of $379,595. This includes budgeted transfers to reserves in the amount of $291,123 and contributions to capital projects in the amount of $99,750.
This shortfall could increase or decrease down the road, depending on factors such as uncontrollable costs as well as whether council decides to put more money into reserves or capital projects, noted McCaig.
“The goal is always to get any deficit down to zero,” he remarked, adding there’s no indication from council yet as to any tax increases for local property owners this year.
Dupuis noted the town budget process still is waiting for more numbers before it can even near finalization.
“We still don’t have any firm numbers as far as uncontrollables go,” she remarked.
For instance, while the town is aware the Northwestern Health Unit is looking for a levy increase of 4.06 percent this coming year, similar levies from the Rainy River District Social Services Board and Rainycrest Home for the Aged are not known at this time.
As such, they only can be included in the budget as estimates.
The town also is still negotiating a new water and sewer agreement with Couchiching First Nation and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, which likely will factor into the town’s budget, as well.