Over the last few years, October has been the month when the city starts the process to raise wastewater rates. This year is no different.
Council will look to adopt two notices of intent to increase wastewater user rates and investment fees when it meets Tuesday. Last year's user rates jumped an average of $10 for residential users once the process was complete. This time around, the rates are expected to increase by about $12.
"We need to have revenue of about $7 million annually for both (treatment) plants," wrote Coral Loyd, the city's finance director, in an email to the Miner. "This is comprised of an approximate $4 million debt payment, $775,000 for debt reserve, $1.9-$2.1 million for operations and the balance (of) $125,000 for contingency."
The city's two wastewater treatment plants fell out of compliance with state and federal regulations earlier this decade,. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality demanded the city correct the problem and held the possibility of imposing $25,000-a-day fines and a moratorium on building permits over the city's head.
The city took out $55 million in loans from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority, and the price of paying back the loan was to be split between monthly users and initial one-time connection fees.
About half of the city's 18,000 water customers are connected to the city's sewer system. Those 9,000 or so customers have carried the burden of the paying back the loans.
Before there was a problem, sewer customers paid on average about $20 a month for service. After this proposed rate increase takes effect most likely in January, the typical residential customer using about 6,150 gallons of water will see their wastewater bill go from just over $50 a month to $62.63 a month.
It must be noted that these figures change depending on the kind of user and the amount of water used.
The city has made an effort to save its customers money in the long run.
For example, about $170,000 in annual tipping fees and operating costs will be saved by the city because an employee put forth an idea to compost biosolids with tree trimmings rather than dumping the waste at the landfill, according to a wastewater/water report set to be presented to Council Tuesday.
Similar cost-saving efforts are listed in the report, which is available online on the city's website and contained within the Council's agenda packet.
As for the wastewater investment fees, their increase is for inflationary purposes. Building a single family residence that contains 15 fixture units will yield an investment fee bill of $1,456 once the increase takes effect in January. Currently, that same house would produce a $1,365 wastewater investment fee bill. The proposal is a move from the roughly $91 per fixture unit (current) to an approximate $97 per fixture unit (proposed).
In other business, Council will decide whether or not to go with the Parks and Recreation Commission recommendation to institute a pilot program of smoke-free zones in the city's parks.
Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the City Complex, 310 N. Fourth St.