By Laura Keil Guest Editor

Last week the Goat reported that the Village of Valemount collected $2.4M in sewage fees and $1.4M in water fees. Turns out, that was only in 2023. The total amount over the pipeline was far greater.

Last month, I received my yearly utilities bill and it increased by $200, an eight per cent increase in sewer fees, seven per cent increase for water and 5.5 per cent for garbage. Last year, it increased by $100. I find it rather odd that the Village, despite collecting an enormous amount of unbudgeted revenue, is continuing to raise utility fees on its residents without explanation.

The only explanation it has given comes from the 2020 report Improving Asset Management at the Village of Valemount report which mandated certain increases (eight per cent for sewer, seven per cent for water) over the coming decade to account for the replacement of ageing infrastructure.
Obviously that plan did not account for the millions of unbudgeted revenue from pipeline customers in subsequent years.

This Modus Operandi of Council would be like me running editorials from four years ago verbatim. Things have changed, and our responses need to as well.

If $3.8M of that money were invested (and keep in mind, that’s just the 2023 revenue), even a modest interest rate of 3 per cent would add $114,000 a year to village coffers. I’m guessing that would just about eliminate any increases to taxpayers.

At the very least, some of that money should go towards an updated asset management plan, which could then instruct the village what it should do based on its current financial reality.

I understand the Village needs to cover its butt, but it needs to be accountable to taxpayers while doing so. Council hasn’t decided what to do with this money yet. It’s currently sitting in surplus and may be moved into reserves. Given the tax increases, it’s my opinion that the additional sewer/water net revenue from the pipeline should be earmarked for sewer and water, not be moved into general revenue for the Village to use for other purposes.