Glendale councilmembers approved two rate increases during the Oct. 24 meeting that increases city water and sewer rates nearly 11 percent over the next two years.
The resolution passed 5-2 with Councilmembers Jamie Aldama and Joyce Clark voting against the rate increases.
With the council vote, rates will increase by 5.5 percent, beginning Jan. 1, 2018, and an additional 5.4 percent, beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Based on the city averages of 9,700 gallons of waters used per month, yhe new rates would add an average of $3.66 per month beginning in 2018 and an additional $3.66 in January 2019.
“This process began in December 2016, when a consultant reviewed the water and sewer financial problems,” said Assistant City Manager Tom Duensing. “They did a review and then it went through the city utility advisory committee, staff research and numerous public meetings.”
Water and sewer rates were last raised in 2010-11, while residential solid waste (trash collection) was last raised in 2008-09.
“While nobody up here wants to make this increase, it has been eight years since we raised water and sewer rates in the city and 10 years since we raised sanitation rates,” said Councilmember Bart Turner. “We need to make a raise now and it is less than $4 for the average customer and less than $3 for sanitation, but we need this for the health and safety of our citizens and that is important.”
Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff added that, hopefully, citizens will be able to get a rebate in the future.
“Nobody wants to sit here making this decision, but we have the responsibility to make the tough decision and deliver water and treat wastewater,” said Tolmachoff. “I have talked about freeing up some of our bonding capacity and I want to talk about paying back some of the money to this enterprise fund.”
During the Arizona Coyotes bankruptcy, the city was forced to withdraw $15 million from the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund to pay the National Hockey League to keep the team in town. While the money was taken from those funds, the money has been paid back to both funds since fiscal year 2012-13, when the original withdrawal was used.
“We also have the opportunity to not have more increases, or lower increases (after two years), because of the money taken from these funds to give to the NHL,” said Tolmachoff.
Earlier this year, council heard two options for rate increases, which would have resulted in a 7.5 percent increase – which would raise the average bill approximately $5 per month, or a 10.2 percent increase – which would raise the bill approximately $6.77 per month.
Staff finally recommended and council settled on the rate increases that were approved, but future increases may be coming, as staff has recommended a 30 percent increase over a five-year span.
“I am against this increase, because the only option offered to the public was a rate increase of 7, 5 or 3 percent in the first year and I thought that increase was too much, too fast,” said Clark. “If I had been queen for a day, I would have granted the requested 30 percent increase, but over seven to eight years, not the five that this will end up being.”
Clark said the city once had a tiered payment rate, which would give less percentage increase for citizens who use less water, but Craig Johnson, director of water services, could not confirm the tiered rates.
Clark said, “Yes, this is only a two-year rate increase, but mark my words, over a five-year time, we will be voting on a 30-percent increase and that will affect a lot of families negatively.”
While council approved the two-year increase, any future increases would have to come back to council for approval.