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Geneva officials to consider water, sewer rate hike

GENEVA – The city’s ratepayers could see a 4.24 percent increase in water and sewer costs if the city council approves the rate hike next week.

Declining revenue for both water and sewer services has resulted in a shortfall the city is required to make up for the bond payments on its water and sewer treatment facilities, according to a rate study presented done by Rempe Sharpe consulting engineers in Geneva.

The proposed increase over a year would be nearly $21 for the average residential user, Public Works Superintendent Daniel Dinges said.

Aldermen acting as the committee of the whole this week recommended approval of the 4.24 percent increase for both services rather than waiting a year and possibly facing a 10 percent increase. Aldermen voted 6-3 in favor with First Ward Alderman Sam Hill, Third Ward Alderman Ray Pawlak and Fifth Ward Alderman Ralph Dantino voting no. Fourth Ward Alderman Dorothy Flanagan was absent.

“The fact is, something needs to be done,” Mayor Kevin Burns said. “The increase will provide a stabilizing effect. We don’t know what next year would be – this is a one-year commitment.”

Dantino said he voted against an increase because of the economy.

“I just think that this economy is tough and there’s enough reserves to hold off for a year and see what happens,” Dantino said.

If approved at the 7 p.m. meeting Monday, the increase would go into effect retroactively to May 1, when the city’s fiscal year begins, officials said.

The rate study used an annual cost because water rates are higher over the summer, Dinges said.

The current average annual water cost of $311.16 would increase to $323.89, a $12.73 increase, Dinges said. On the sewer-use side, the current average annual cost of $177.28 would increase to $185.24 or $7.97, he said.

The monthly bills combining water and sewer costs would rise 4.24 percent, he said.

As to why the city’s revenues are down, Dinges said the last two years have been very wet with high rainfall.

“So during the summer, with cool moist weather, the grass is staying green and people are not watering as much,” Dinges said. “The economy is affecting incomes as well, and people are choosing whether to keep grass green or not. People are also conserving, using low-volume fixtures.”

The city’s water revenue loss from May 2009 to April 2010 is $644,713. Dinges said $4.2 million was budgeted but the city actually received less than $3.6 million.

Revenue loss in the sewer fund was $339,000. The city budgeted $2.4 million but received just over $2 million.

Dinges said his department made cuts of $347,000 in expenses and postponed capital projects, but still needs a rate increase to meet fixed costs of paying off bonds. There 18 years left to pay off the water treatment plant and about 12 left to pay off the sewer treatment, officials said.

“We have postponed a lot of projects to stay within budget, such as water main replacement and relining,” Dinges said. “We can’t continue to do that. We have infrastructure needs out there and they will just come back and haunt us eventually.”

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