Remove Saskatchewan Municipal Board approval for utility rate changes
Whereas Section 23 of The Municipalities Act requires that municipalities submit their utility rate bylaws, when amended, to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board for approval; and Whereas cities are not required to have their rate-setting bylaws approved when amended; and Whereas the province has other means at their disposal to ensure municipalities are maintaining their respective utilities in a self-sustaining manner; Therefore be it resolved that the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association request the province at the next legislative review of The Municipalities Act to have the requirement of SMB approval on utility rates removed.
Current legislation as it relates to water and sewer rates is what the municipal sector requested at the time The Municipalities Act was developed. The sector viewed the role of the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) as import to retain. Government's key concern is to ensure utilities are financially self-sustainable and not reliant on other general revenue to support the utility system. The ministry understands that approximately half of all water and sewer bylaws need adjustment or assistance from the board and its staff when reviewed. Given the high percentage, the ministry continues to see this as an important role for the SMB and important protection for ratepayers. The ministry's review of the SMB's business processes found that many municipalities value the role the board plays in reviewing the borrowing municipalities are considering, and the water and sewer rates, and local improvements they propose. In this context, it is still important to have a body arms-length from the ministry to assist with and provide a second look at proposal financing and documentation to ensure it is in order and in the best interests of the municipality and its residents. The ministry and the SMB have several initiatives underway to expedite approval processes and ensure these processes do not act as a barrier to growth. These include reviewing legislation, working with SUMA and others in the municipal sector to improve municipal education and reviewing and streamlining processes to expedite application approvals where possible.