Drumheller residents will see a slight increase on their Town utility bills in 2024 as council approved a three per cent increase for water, solid waste and recycling services, and a six per cent increase for wastewater services during the regular Monday, November 6 council meeting.
The 2024 Utility Operating Budget along with the three-year Utility Operating Financial Plan were presented to council by Corporate and Community Services director Victoria Chan who explained water and solid waste and recycling expenses are anticipated to increase in 2024; while these expenses are increasing, Ms. Chan noted wastewater expenses will be decreasing slightly.
“Most of the increased expense is based on the projections of the salaries and benefits as we agreed under the contract ratifications with union employees,” Ms. Chan explained during the meeting.
Later in the meeting, Acting Infrastructure Services director Kelcie Wilson shared a briefing note that the 2024 Utility Operating Budget included provisions to increase staffing levels by two Utility Operator positions, and increase of approximately $208,180 annually.
To accommodate for increased expenditures it was recommended to increase the water rate by three per cent, from a rate of $2.2386 per cubic meter to $2.3058 per cubic meter.
A total of nine other municipalities of similar population and size were compared, which included Blackfalds, Taber, Coaldale, Edson, and Olds among others. Based on an average household consumption of 20 cubic meters, it was determined Drumheller falls below the average monthly charges in 2023 of $66.01 at a rate of approximately $62.34 monthly.
It was also recommended council increase the solid waste and recycling rates by three per cent, from $8.00 to $8.24 per month for solid waste services, and from $3.00 to $3.09 per month for recycling.
Ms. Chan explained Drumheller is well below the average solid waste and recycling rates compared to the same nine municipalities, at a rate of $11.00 per month in 2023 compared to the average rate of $25.37; the next lowest municipality was Drayton Valley at a rate of $19.00 monthly, while Edson had the highest rate of $29.51 monthly.
Wastewater will see an increase in user fees of six per cent, from $2.4131 per cubic meter to $2.5579 per cubic meter in 2024.
In 2023, a household consuming an average of 20 cubic meters per month would have seen user rates of approximately $53.62 per month. This is below the average cost across comparative municipalities of $61.58, and well below the highest municipality of $112.80 monthly in Olds, though slightly above the lowest municipality in Ponoka at $40.11 monthly.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Darryl Drohomerski noted during the meeting the increase the average user in Drumheller will see monthly is about the cost of a coffee and muffin from local coffee shops.