September 15, 2016

Revised Water and Sewer Rate Proposal Adopted, New Rates Go Into Effect October 1

Having worked throughout the summer to gather and incorporate public input, City Council has unanimously approved a modified water and sewer rate proposal to avert the looming insolvency of the Enterprise (Utility) Fund.  As detailed previously, for at least the past 22 years rates have not kept up with the rising costs of utility operations and increasingly critical infrastructure needs. Had we done nothing to correct this, we'd be looking at a negative ending fund balance as early as the end of this coming fiscal year.

Responsive to the public input we received, the original proposal (first presented in April and the subject of a town hall meeting in July) was modified in two respects:

  • More of the rate increase has been shifted to the volumetric side of the equation, to encourage water conservation and provide some relief to lower-volume users; and

  • the increase will be phased in over the next five years rather than all at once, for the benefit of all users.

Restructuring the balance between fixed and volumetric rates was straightforward enough, but phasing in the overall rate increases presented a bit of a challenge.  As if to highlight just how far we’d allowed the fund balance to deteriorate up to this point, it proved impossible to scale back the corrective action while still satisfying our 60-day minimum fund balance requirement.  In consultation with the City’s financial advisor, Council ultimately approved relaxing that requirement, by lowering it to a 30-day reserve for the next four years, after which the full 60-day minimum fund balance will be restored.  In essence, we had to tap in to our “rainy day fund” to achieve the phase-in.

The modifications to the original proposal are evident in the following charts, which compare the newly adopted rates against the original proposal and current rates.

Base rates
Volumetric rates

To give you an idea of the impact on your monthly bill, here is the same comparison, for several common billing scenarios.

This has been a difficult issue and one that City Council has taken very seriously.  While no one is happy about any rate increases, we are pleased that we were able to at least soften the blow through the modifications described above, and we’re grateful for the public input that has helped guide us to this decision, as a community.