Fee hikes enrage Kugluktuk property owners
Cash-strapped council jacks up lease, water and sewage, garbage fees
Kugluktuk’s private homeowners and small business owners are up in arms over a set of municipal fee hikes imposed on them by their cash-strapped hamlet council.
After a botched scheme to install an artificial ice surface in the community’s recreation centre, Kugluktuk’s hamlet council last year found itself with a crippling $1-million deficit.
“There’s a moral issue here. Like if the Northern store was the only place you could buy a loaf of bread and they jacked up the price of a loaf of bread to $85 – I think that’s what’s happening here,” said Larry Whittaker, a Kugluktuk homeowner.
Whittaker said he and other property owners believe their municipal government is punishing them for a mess that the municipal government created itself.
“The hamlet has this huge deficit that was incurred as a result of mismanagement of the recreation centre complex. They’re taking this out on a very small number of people.”
He says that in recent months, Kugluktuk hit private property owners with a hike in lot-lease administration fees of 600 per cent, an increase in water and sewage fees of 140 per cent, and higher garbage pick-up fees.
But Cal Shaw, Kugluktuk’s senior administrative officer, says most of those fee hikes have nothing to do with Kugluktuk’s recent financial woes – and would have been imposed anyway.
Their water and sewage rate increases, for example, are mandated by Government of Nunavut rules that say all hamlets must maintain separate water and sewage funds. Since those funds must be “balanced” every year, Kugluktuk was forced to raise water and sewage rates to maintain the fund at its required level, Shaw said.
The lot-lease hikes are another example. Kugluktuk’s council raised them from $100 to $600 about a year and half ago, but couldn’t implement that move because of staffing issues.
“Unfortunately, we had some real problems with personnel in land administration, and we’ve only recently kind of addressed that, so the people are getting caught now, even though some of them should have got caught over a year and a half ago,” Shaw said.
As in other hamlets, lot lease money doesn’t go into the municipal government’s general revenues, but into a separate “land development fund” that’s used to pay for future lot development.
“That doesn’t go into deficit recovery in any manner. That just allows us to develop future lots,” Shaw said.
Shaw says Kugluktuk is “way behind” in building up such a fund. And he says the lot lease rates are no worse than what’s being charged across Nunavut.
Whittaker, on the other hand, says he can’t understand why he should be charged such high fees. Because he has a double-size lot, he pays $1,200 a year. And he says he developed the lot himself.
“In the case of my particular property, which I’ve had since 1982, there were no development costs. I built the road and power line myself, and there were no development costs,” he said.
He’s also irked by hikes in garbage pick-up fees – which he can’t avoid because the hamlet won’t let him take his garbage to the dump himself.
“They were charging $15 a month for garbage pick-up, and that’s reasonable, if you get your garbage picked up. But I get my garbage picked up so seldom and with no schedule at all – it could be tomorrow or three weeks from now,” Whittaker said.
But Shaw explained that for environmental reasons, no municipal government anywhere in Canada would likely allow unsupervised access to garbage dumps – and Kugluktuk is no different.