Priorities, numbers needed to make a decision about water rate hike
by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Discussion at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting centered on the need to have capital projects prioritized and numbers clarified in order to make a decision whether water and sewer rates should be increased.
The proposed increase would increase a current bill of $46.60 to $47.14, or 1.4 percent. The water rate per 100 cubic feet would go from $3.50 to $3.55, and the sewer from $2.60 to $2.64.
Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said that the estimated revenues from the rate increase in 2010 were less than anticipated.
“The total shortfall is just over $54,000 of what we estimated revenues to be. We didn’t get as much money as we thought we were going to get, but we looked at the other side (expenditures) and found ways to reduce spending,” Nevenhoven said. “We stopped the bleeding we’d been experiencing the last couple of years.”
Last year’s large rate increase came at a time when the village was losing over $20,000 each month. Prior to that increase, water rates hadn’t been raised since the 1980s and sewer rates since the 1990s.
Usage fell following the rate hike with the system pumping 4 million gallons less than prior to the increase.
“With the increased rate, people think about it when they turn on their faucets. That’s why revenues are short,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.
The board discussed raising the base rate, which is currently $5 for both sewer and water. This money is used for capital improvements such as painting the water tower and replacing blowers. Additionally, a portion of the sewer revenue, approximately $1.10, is dedicated to repaying a $240,000 bond from Kane County. It will take 10 years to pay back the bond.
Trustee Jeff Walter emphasized that operational costs may not remain stable if people turn off their water to cut costs and that increasing the base charge makes sense. Bill Grabarek agreed.
“I’m hesitant to ask for a 1.4 percent increase in water bills,” he said. “I’d rather mess with the capital, not the operating money. I’d prefer to look at what it would be with the base charge (increase).”
In order to know how much money is actually needed, the board needs to know what projects have priority and what criteria is used. Also, village officials need to be able to inform the public that a rate hike is on the horizon. So, for the increase to be in effect by May 1, notification would need to be in the April 1 water bills.
“On Monday (at the village board meeting, March 21), you will see a project list and the staff-pick projects and recommendations,” Willrett said.