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Council to debate increasing fees on pretty much everything

The City of Prince George will be holding a special council meeting on Wednesday and one of the main items on the agenda will be a report calling for increases to a slew of fees and services offered by the city.

The meeting will get underway at 6 p.m. in council chambers.

The finance and audit committee is recommending the following fee increases:

Cemetery – A three per cent increase each year for the next four years is required to achieve the full recovery of costs associated with this service. Also, additional interment options have been added to accommodate the growing trend for that end of life choice.

Solid Waste – A two per cent increase per year for the next four years is needed to meet the operational, capital and asset renewal expenses of the utility. Primary inflationary drivers for the fund include the tipping fees paid to the regional district, labour and the purchase of the vehicles.

Highways – This section includes items such as Extraordinary Vehicle Permit Fees, Right-of-Way Occupancy Permit Fees and Road Cut Fees. A three per cent per year rate increase over the next four years is recommended to help alleviate inflationary impacts specifically related to the installation or extension of access culverts. These fees have not been adjusted since 2014.

Sanitary Sewer – A new Sewer Capacity Charge is being proposed for implementation to metered customers. The goal is to create a two-cost component structure that is similar to the one used in the Water Utility. The capacity charge will be based on the size of the pipe servicing the property and represents the recovery of the capital costs associated with providing the infrastructure to the property. The existing Sewer per gallon charge (which represents the charge tied to usage) will be reduced and set to equal 90 per cent of the Water per gallon charge.  In addition to the new cost component structure, all sewer flat and metered rates are proposed to increase at per cent per year for the next four years. Cost drivers include labour increases and a high inflation rate associated with the capital reinvestment needs of the facility.

Storm Sewer – Key adjustments to this schedule include the fee for storm sewer connections to the city system and clarifications on the requirements for deep connections and off season construction. Fees escalate at three per cent per year for four years.

Subdivision Control – Section 5, “Street Signs” of this schedule has been updated to reflect the current material supply fees and labour/equipment charges to install signs and supports for a subdivision or development. Fees escalate at three per cent per year for four years.

Water Regulation and Rates – In reviewing the water utility’s two cost component structure, it has been determined that the city has been over-collecting on the capacity charge and under-collecting on the per gallon charge. As a result, a reduction in the capacity charge has been recommended along with an increase in the per gallon charge to bring the capital/operating expense recovery of the utility into balance. In addition to the adjustment, all Sewer flat and metered rates are proposed to increase at three per cent per year for the next four years. Cost drivers include labour increases and the inflation rate associated with the capital reinvestment needs of the facility

Snow Dumping – These fees are charged through the purchase of tickets by private haulers utilizing City owned snow disposal sites. Updates reflect the costs for an attendant to manage haulers entering the site. Fees escalate at three per cent per year for four years.

The services in Schedule B are all subsidized by taxation to recognize that although specific organizations and individuals gain benefits from these services, the community as a whole is also provided significant public benefit. User fees are designed to reduce the amount of subsidization as much as possible while still ensuring accessibility to all users and operational efficiency.

CN Centre and Community Arenas – These two schedules will be combined into one schedule as the charges for arena ice usage were identical. A three per cent increase has been proposed to recover costs through rental fees at a consistent and predictable rate that arena users have been annually anticipating. Some outdated items were also removed, such as faxing fees and spring roller hockey rentals (activity is no longer occurring), and rental charges to meeting spaces were increased to be consistent with the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre.

Prince George Conference and Civic Centre – Three per cent increases per year over the next four years are proposed to continue to position the facility competitively within the local, regional, provincial and national markets. Main cost drivers include increases to district energy heating costs, rising security needs, and a high construction inflation rate that is affecting the costs of meeting the reinvestment needs of the facility.

Aquatics Cost – Driving factors to the facilities include heating costs, rising labour costs associated with evolving safety legislation requiring a stricter lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio, annual costs related to switching from chlorine gas to a safer liquid chlorine and rising capital construction costs for reinvestment. Three per cent increases each year over the next four years are proposed to maintain the current cost recovery rates for the Aquatics Division.

Parks and Recreation – A three per cent per year rate increase over the next four years is recommended to represent a stable increase that supports an operational cost recovery model that is balanced with the subsidized use of park and recreational facilities for the greater public good. Other key changes are defined in the related attached report. An error was discovered in this section after approval by the Finance and Audit Committee. The 2020 Adult Hourly Sport Field rental rate should have been included at $18.00/hour, but was incorrectly entered at $27.00/hour. Research of peer communities identifies that the corrected rate is on par with the average rental rate for this class.

Prince George Playhouse Theatre – A three per cent increase has been proposed to recover costs through rental fees at a consistent and predictable rate that theatre users have been annually anticipating.

The services in Schedule C have the same goal as Schedule A. The city attempts to recover the full cost associated with these services.

Parking and Traffic – The Off-Street Parking Service is to be self funded through a combination of the Off-Street Parking Levy and the Off-Street Parking user fees. These rates are developed to fund operating and maintenance costs, debt payments, new and renewal of capital infrastructure needs as well as maintain a contingency fund. The primary inflationary challenges with providing the service is the cost of labour as well as inflation for capital construction costs. The fees proposed are increases of two per cent per year for four years.

Records Administration – These fees are charged for the production of “routine” records to members of the public. The fees under this schedule have not received increases since 2004 so administration conducted a review to bring fees in line with other municipalities and to better reflect the city’s cost of providing the service. New fees added to the schedule include the provision of electronic versions of records, a consolidated fee structure 5 for property file records and fees for certain record requests submitted to the human resources department.

Fire Protection and Emergency Response Administration proposed a three per cent increase in fees for service and vehicle charges in each of the next four years. The purpose of the recommended increase is to keep pace with annual increasing overhead and operating costs such as labour, Emergency Vehicle Technician Certification and Training, and technological advancements in fire apparatus.

RCMP Support Services – This schedule is for costs related to support staff providing services to the public as required, ie. Criminal records checks, police information checks, analyst reports, false alarm fees, etc. These fees have not increased since 2015 and administration proposed three per cent increases each year for the next four years to recover the increasing costs associated with providing this service.

The Total Financial Impact – A large portion of the fees and charges in this report fund the self-sustaining utilities for those services (Sewer, Water, Solid Waste, Off-Street Parking). The remaining fees provide annual revenue sources that offset the general expenses of the City. The impact of those remaining fees are estimated to increase general revenue by approximate $145,000 and offset the 2020 tax increase by 0.13 per cent.

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