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Board backs double-digit utility rate hikes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Poirier   
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 20:45

Cost of village water would increase 12%, sewer charge to rise by 42% over five years, according to plan

The Grafton Board of Public Works on Tuesday endorsed a 12.5% increase in the village water rate this year and a 42% increase in sewer rates phased in over five years. 

The average annual combined water and sewer bill would increase by $223.02 — from $547.83 to $770.85 — by 2021 under the proposal, which is being driven by a significant decrease in water and sewer use, based on a study conducted by Trilogy Consulting of Milwaukee.

Although difficult to believe considering commercial and resident growth in the village, officials said, the amount of water sold by the Village Water and Wastewater Utility decreased by 87.2 million gallons over 15 years, dropping from 412.6 million in 2000 to 325.4 million in 2015, according to the study.

The decrease in water use and the related sewer use account for a $709,123 loss in revenue for the water and wastewater utility, the study said.

Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said that while the village has experienced significant growth since 2000, including the opening of Aurora Medical Center in 2010 and large retail stores in the eastside commercial district, those operations are relatively efficient water users. Several manufacturing companies, historically the largest water users, are no longer in operation.

“It falls into the category of no good deed goes unpunished,” Thyes said. “As the village and water utility work on educating people on water efficiency and sound environmental practices that in turn lowers our water and sewer usage, which in turn lowers the amount we are able to collect for usage fees.” 

In February, the village hired Trilogy Consulting to conduct two water and sewer rate studies, both of which concluded that the water and wastewater utility need to increase rates to cover operational expenses and pay for improvements.

According to the proposal, the 12.5% water rate increase would take effect later this year.

The sewer rate increase would be phased in with annual increases of 20%, 15%, 2.5%, 2% and 2% between 2017 and 2021.

But before that can happen, the increases need to be approved by the Village Board on Monday, May 15. If approved by the board, the water rate increase will have to be approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

Grafton ranks below average for water and sewer costs when compared to 12 other local municipalities. With the proposed increase in rates, Grafton would be slightly above average.

Water revenue comes from approximately 65% usage and 35% fixed charges, while the wastewater revenue originates from 75% usage and 25% fixed charges.

The proposed rate increase changes those ratios to 51% usage and 49% fixed charges for water, and 67% usage and 33% fixed charges for sewer. 

“The biggest reason with water savings going down is based on usage,” Director of Public Works Amber Thomas said. “The proposed change in the fixed charges rates is to address the shortage in usage.”

The most recent rate increase occurred last fall when the water rate increased by 3% and the sewer rate grew by 5%.

In other business, the Board of Public Works passed a motion to recommend the Village Board to authorize staff to coordinate the installation of an inter-municipal water system emergency connection with the City of Cedarburg. 

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