I want to use this month’s article to address questions that come up every month regarding the utility bills. Like clockwork, people take to Facebook to inquire about their utility bills. I understand this, but to be honest, it doesn’t solve or answer your questions.
Since becoming Mayor, we have all worked hard to make communication and transparency a top priority and we will continue to do so. I hope the below explanation and suggestions will be helpful.
In July 2023, Council approved a 9% increase in water & sewer rates. A notice went out to all utility residents in the July newsletter. I also addressed this in the monthly Mayor’s Corner, published in the Flashes. The reason for the increase is the city faces a $4 million dollar upgrade and improvement plan to the wastewater infrastructure. The City received a grant of $2 million to pay for this needed work, but unfortunately, that left us with $2 million left to pay. Another unfortunate aspect was that over the years, administrations and councils did not raise rates to cover inflation and the rising cost of maintenance. While that might be politically popular, it’s not fiscally responsible. It is tough as your elected representatives to raise rates on any service, but in reality, we have to be responsible and maintain our utility infrastructure so that we are providing you with the highest standards you expect and deserve.
In 2021, Council approved a 4% decrease in electric rates. Those rates were scheduled to decrease each year for 3 years. At the time, we were in a Pandemic, and had a healthy electric fund balance. We wanted to assist residents during possible financial hardships. We are currently in the process of conducting an Electric Study and once completed, Council will consider future electric rates. Until then, the rates remain the same.
There are several factors that cause your bill to fluctuate. One is the number of days of the meter reading. The bill we received February 1st was for 33 days. This is 3 extra days that contributed to usage and cost. A possible reason for electric costs to seem higher is the usage from Dec 15th-Jan 18th. I know my electricity was higher, but I was running Christmas lights inside and outside of my home. We were also hit with a cold snap for a few weeks so even if you have a gas furnace, it uses electricity as well. Also look at your overall usage for each utility. Compare that to the last bill, but more importantly, compare it to the same time last year. Every month is different so comparing it to the same time last year can be beneficial. Something you can do to help with budgeting is to sign up for the utility budget plan. Sign up is coming soon so if you want more information, please stop into City Hall, and see if this is an option. Additionally, if you suspect a water line break or issues with your meters, please call and report this to our Department of Public Works. If you have questions about your bill, please stop or call City Hall. If you have further concerns, reach out to your Council representative. We are all here to serve you!
As always, if you have any questions regarding this, or any city service, please let me know. I am available by email, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or my cell phone (517-410-9472).