Council are simplifying the way we have had to charge for water
We have been deliberating over this issue and as a consequence of a recent Council legal decision, Council have changed the way it charges for water to a user pays system.
Throughout the past few years, Council have received many requests during meetings, community engagement exercises and telephone enquiries, to support the changes made to the charging system.
This system introduces a fairer pricing structure and gives ratepayers more control over their bills.
The system is made up of a fixed access charge which is predominantly made up of the fixed charges of almost $11 million Council needs to pay the Mount Isa Water Board and Sunwater for water.
The second component is the variable consumption charge which includes the Council’s costs in maintaining the distribution network.
Mayor Joyce McCulloch said unlike many cities Council pays a large fee to the Mount Isa Water Board and Sunwater.
“Council is expecting to be charged up to $10.7 million in the 2018/2019 financial year to access water for our community, this cost is distributed across our water ratepayer base, which is actually quite small, at around 7000 assessments,” Cr McCulloch said.
“The consumption charges, which we have kept to a minimum, are very reasonable compared to many other areas, but the access charge, we just can’t do anything to reduce the $11 million cost to Council.”
Cr McCulloch said to keep water costs to a minimum for ratepayers, Council have planned for a 0 per cent total revenue increase for water in the next financial year, whereas places like Townsville have projected an 8 per cent total revenue increase for water.
“We know our ratepayers can’t afford to take on greater costs. But the fixed charge to council of almost $11 million can’t be avoided, so we have kept our consumption charges to a minimum, while still being able to maintain the extensive water infrastructure of the city’s water network.”
Cr McCulloch said data was taken and analysed from council rating records on all occupied residential properties with a 20mm water meter and it was found that the average amount of water consumption for properties was approx. 490kl per year.
“If these properties continue to make use a similar amount this year, they will be looking at an overall financial saving,” Cr McCulloch said.
Camooweal residents are also included in the new charging system, but the town is similar to others including Cloncurry, Boulia, and Winton, in that the town produces its own water from bores or other water bodies, so costs of providing this water are very different to the filtrated water provided in Mount Isa.
Cr McCulloch said In light of the decision to simplify the charging system, Council have identified a number of areas where they can assist the community with reducing the impact of the change.
“We have taken on board feedback from community regarding their concerns around excess water bills and have developed a remissions policy which incorporates a number of things including a rebate for concealed leaks and faulty meters, along with rebates for defined medical purposes,” Cr McCulloch said.
“In addition, Council has provided for significant concessions to schools, not for profit sporting clubs, and community groups.”
Cr McCulloch said future initiatives include the exploration of a smart metering system and the securing of funding, which will allow for real-time monitoring of water consumption accessible by community.
“At the end of the day, we know that it costs a lot to access water. These are costs that Council have to pay, but we are working extremely hard behind the scenes to offset these costs for our ratepayers,” Cr McCulloch said.
“We are in the business of caring for our community and we will keep working to ensure their needs are met, and that Mount Isa continues to be a great place to live and work.”