By Nikki Jamieson
Due to all around increased costs, the Boards and Services packages at Clearview Lodge have gone up by $100 across the board.
Although the carbon tax does play a factor in it, it is not the only reason for the increase, according to a Taber and District Housing official.With factors such as increased food and labour costs, the facility cannot keep operating at the previous prices.
“After reviewing the cost structure for 2017, as part of our budget deliberations, we decided that we actually, unfortunately, had to increase the Board Service package by $100,” said Tim Janzen, chief administrative officer for the Taber and District Housing Foundation. “We’re not in the business of making money, but we do have to be in the business of recovering our costs.”
“There may have been places where we could have made some minor reductions in our expenses, but what we realize is that those cuts will significantly effect the quality of the service that we provide, the quality of the experience that we provide to our residents. So the decision was made that rather than reduce the quality of the experience, that we would actually charge a little bit more to continue to provide quality of experience at Clearview Lodge.”
In the letter, dated Dec. 29, 2016, it says the increased fees will come into effect on April 1, 2017 for existing residents. All new residents will pay the new fee price as of Jan. 1, 2017.
Although this hike has been the most substantive one at an increase of $100, in recent years there have been hikes of $50 (2013), $25 (2014) and $25 (2016) for the Board and Services packages.
“We addressed a lot of deferred maintenance last year, and basically we determined that we may not have done anyone any favours by holding the line on board service packages, because we couldn’t do any work because we couldn’t afford it. I think that we have wanted to continue to address the upkeep of the building, but the reality is that meant that we might have to have some amount of increase for the residents.”
The Board and Services package is separate from a residents rent. For rent, Clearview is allowed to charge up to 30 percent of a resident’s monthly income, with a cap of $900 on it.
This means that someone who has a monthly income of $1,500 would only have to pay $450/month in rent, while someone who makes $3,500/month would pay $900/month in rent, as they have reached that price cap. Rent covers the cost of the room.
The Board and Service package, on the other hand, takes care of items such as meals, personal care, housekeeping, TV cable and recreation. Other services, such as having someone do your laundry, can also be added, but cost extra, depending on the size and type of the room, the fee differs.
Under the new rules at Clearview, the package can range in price from $775-875 for a single suite and $1,350-1,400 for a couple sharing a suite.
Despite the increase, residents will not have to fear going broke in order to pay for these services. Under Alberta Health legislation, residents must have at least $315 left over from their monthly income.
“There is a bit of a safety mechanism, that we are required to review the total income of a resident, and when we and the rent and the board service package together, they must be left with a disposable income of $315 per month,” said Janzen. “There are some residents, despite us raising the amount of board package, will not pay a single penny more of rent to live at Clearview Lodge.”
“According to government regulation, whether you agree or disagree that $315 is sufficient to live on, that’s the standard the government has set. We cannot charge more then that amount for the service provided to a resident.”
Admitting that $315 was not a lot of money, he acknowledge that there may be some frustration for residents who had a bit more left over each month, only to find they’ll only have $100 less or have only $315 for walking around money or for car insurance and gas.
The increase will not effect incoming residents if they cannot pay the total amount of both fees, due to policy.
“The whole screening criteria for eligibility is set up that higher-need people, lower income residents, are prioritized. So they will be first in line.”
Although the carbon tax was not the only reason, Janzen says ultimately, they don’t know just how much it is going to cost them, although they predict it will be around $10,000. Additionally, it will be the residents, and not the lodge management, who pays the utilities, who will get the rebate. Although they plan on asking for more money from the government, he does not expect costs to go down.
“Unfortunately, nothing seems to be getting cheaper. Everything in every category we looked at is more expensive.”
While there will be no open house or meeting to justify the increase, Janzen and Joan Hart, lodge manager, encourage residents and families to bring their concerns to them and talk. However, the raises are necessary to keep up their level of service, for which they were ranked highly for in a January 2015 report by the Alberta Health Quality Council.
“In the big picture, out of the 78 resident, I think I’ve only had five maybe, that have come to me,” said Hart. “So it’s not a huge population that has brought forth a concern.”
Other properties under the Taber and District Housing Foundation’s management, such as community housing, where people live independently and as those tenants pay their own utilities, and are just charged rent by the foundation. However, in the case of the manors under the Taber and District Housing Foundation banner where seniors live independently, utilities are recovered, but are based on what they paid for the previous year’s utilities, and the foundation will not recover the cost of the carbon tax at these facilities for a year.