The Bloomington Utilities Service Board voted yesterday to increase city residents’ sewage bills by 53 percent to make up for its $6.5 million annual budget shortfall. The proposal must still be approved by the city council before it takes effect.
The last rate increase was in 2006, and the board’s Vice President Julie Roberts says it has not been passing on its operation costs to its customers because of the recession.
“We were doing pretty well and then not wanting to pass along the pain of a rate increase when the recession hit and then continuing to not want to pass it on as it got worse and worse and worse,” Roberts says. “Then we reached a point where the utility is just having a hard time covering basic expenses and not able to replace vital pieces of the system.”
The proposal would increase the average customer’s bill just over $13 each month. Board President Tom Swafford says the increase will help pay for repairs that need to be done as well as basic operating costs like personnel salaries and health insurance.
“It will cover what we need to get done now, and as we pay off some of these bonds over the next five years, it gives us more working capital to address future projects,” he says.
The city council is expected to hear a first reading of the proposal Wednesday and should vote on the measure December 21. A water rate increased was approved earlier this year, so if the sewage rate increase is also approved, Bloomington residents would see an average increase of $257 in their utilities bill next year.
At the meeting, the Utilities Service Board members committed to reviewing the rates every two years to avoid such a large increase in the future.