Q: How much may a municipality charge for a public utility service? What are the regulations regarding utility deposits?
A: Under Section 23 of The Municipalities Act, a council may, by bylaw, establish a public utility service and set any rates, charges, tolls, fares or rents for the service including the lease or sale of equipment, fittings, equipment, meters or other things needed to deliver the service to consumers. Each municipality sets its own rates or fees based on its costs of providing the service. The Saskatchewan Municipal Board approves the rates, charges, tools or rents contained in a utility rate bylaw.
In most cases, the municipality owns and maintains water meters and may charge a deposit to cover meter replacement or repair costs, or meter lease or rent fees. There are no regulations regarding utility deposits.
Q: A property owner has received an invoice for fire protection services. While there was a major fire in the area, it did not actually reach the owner’s land. Is the charge valid?
A: Section 8 of The Municipalities Act provides municipalities with jurisdiction to establish municipal services and the ability to establish fees associated with those services. The actions carried out by the municipality to combat a major fire in the area may have prevented the fire from spreading to land owned by the property owner. Provided that the bylaw includes fire prevention as a chargeable service, the amount that was charged to the property owner would be valid.
Q: What are a municipality's options regarding unpaid or over due public utility accounts (i.e. arrears)?
A: Section 29 of The Municipalities Act empowers a municipality to discontinue providing a public utility service in accordance with its bylaws, resolutions or policies which may include the municipal response in situations to an unpaid account.
Section 31 provides for the creation of liens on land or collection by distress and sale of goods to satisfy amounts payable for the provision of public utility services. Section 369 provides authority for municipalities to add unpaid charges for a utility service which has been provided to a parcel of land to be added to the property taxes.
Q: How does a municipality obtain approval of a utility bylaw from the Saskatchewan Municipal Board?
A: The Saskatchewan Municipal Board has different requirements for different types of bylaws, see their website for more details.