Incremental increase will stay below 3 percent hike
By Philip Haldiman
Peoria residents and businesses should expect an increase in their overall water rate in the coming months.
The city council will consider a total rate increase of 2.27 percent for 2019-20 — an increase of $1.84 per month for the average customer, as well as 2.73 percent in 2020-21 — an increase of $2.26 per month for the average customer.
In this case, the average customer is a user with a ¾ inch meter and 10,000 gallons of water usage per month.
These utilities include water, sewer, storm water and solid waste.
A public hearing and council consideration is scheduled for May 21.
Mayor Cathy Carlat said nobody likes to talk about rate increases in any shape or form, especially city councils, but assurances need to be made that Peoria’s systems are safe for the public.
“Infrastructure is a critical part of what we do as a city, and I think it is really important that we can stand behind what we are doing, stand behind what we are maintaining and stand behind that we are not going to be surprised by new growth and that we are prepared for it,” she said. “And so sometimes theses things are important. We have an enterprise system and that means this is self contained — we are not taking money in and out of our general fund. This is just about the usage.”
The city is projecting more than $200 million in water and sewer infrastructure costs over the next five years.
Finance and Budget Director Sonia Andrews said costs are expected to rise for many system needs such as materials, supplies and Central Arizona Project water.
Due to these needs, she said, revenues for water and sewer will need to increase by about 1 percent, resulting in residents’ water rates for this part of their bill to increase 1.1 percent for Fiscal Year 2019-20 and 1.6 percent for 2020-21.
Much of this is expected to go to the expansion of Peoria’s water treatment plants needed for growth capacity, she said.
“This includes costs for aging infrastructure, aging pipes, pumps and reservoirs. Staying on top of this is critical to ensure the reliability of our system,” Ms. Andrews said.
Due to landfill rate increases, fuel and maintenance costs for the city’s fleet system and a major shift in the recycling market, residential and commercial customers will experience a 6 percent increase to the solid waste section of their bills, a financial impact of less than a dollar.
Lastly, residents’ stormwater service fee will increase from $1 to $1.50 a month, over two years, which will maintain increasing assets and increased maintenance costs.
This fee goes to maintaining all the city’s catch basins, dry wells, culverts, major channels and other infrastructure. It also includes the service of inspecting and resolving issues such as clogs, sediments, standing water and maintaining aesthetics such as landscaping along major channels.
Ms. Andrews said this fee has not increased since 2008.
“Given the pressures we have facing maintaining the appearances of our storm water assets and also because we have not raised the stormwater fee for quite some time, current expenditures are exceeding the revenue,” she said. “So raising the stormwater fee will help us resolve some of the structural imbalance.”
Peoria sets water rates based on customer class, meter size and usage. There is a base charge by meter size, so the larger the meter the higher the charge. There is also a usage charge based on how much water is used.
This rate structure helps the city ensure that customers who use less pay less, and customers who use more pay more. The sewer utility charges based on winter water usage.
Ms. Andrews said this is because during winter months there is little outdoor irrigation, so the winter water usage is a more accurate measure of the water discharge into the system. If the council approves the increases, the rates will be locked in for the next two fiscal years.
Ms. Andrews said this provides customer certainty and predictability.
“We are able to address system needs with these small rate increases because council has been supportive of small incremental rate increases over the last few years, and if it wasn’t for that, we would be looking at larger rate increases to address the system needs,” she said. “And we believe these rate increases do meet our objectives of cost recovery, revenue and rate stability and affordability.”
A portion of the funds will go to reclaimed water programs and conservation outreach.
Vice Mayor Bridget Binsbacher said it is important to continue planning education and public outreach to inform residents what they can do to conserve.
“We need to be doing that anyway, but in light of the fact that there is a bit of a an increase, I think we need to remember there are things we can do in our homes to offset this increase and then some for the future,” she said.
March 19: Notice of intent
May 21: Public hearing and adoption
July 1: Rates effective
Current Y202F0 FY2021
Water $39.06 $39.47 $40.18
Sewer $26.60 $26.91 $27.29
Stormwater $1.00 $1.25 $1.50
Solid Waste $14.42 $15.29 $16.21
Combined $81.08 $82.92 $85.18
% Adjustment 2.27% 2.73%
$ Adjustment $1.84 $2.26