The average residential water customer in the City of Saline will pay an extra additional $60 a year for water and sewer after city council approved new consumption rates taking effect June 1.
The city’s water rates are rising from $10.67 to 11.45 per 1,000 gallons. That number is projected to rise to $13.18 next year.
According to city estimates, the average Saline resident would see their quarterly bill jump from $252 to $267. Next year, based on current projections, the number could rise to $294.
For large industrial users, the increase could near $5,000 a quarter. American Soy, for example, would see their bill rise from $62,667 to $67,425 at current consumption levels.
Council voted 6-1 to approve the rate increases. The rates were calculated by the city using rate studies performed by Tetra Tech and projected expenditures. Mayor Brian Marl voted against the motion. Marl said respected staff's work and recommendation but felt the hike was excessive.
The water and sewer operations are funded by rate payers. As costs go up, so do prices.
“It’s important to remind ourselves the framework of water and sewer rates is set by state law and legal precedent,” Councillor Linda TerHaar said. “We’re not making these things up. It’s based on actual costs.”
Next year rates are expected to climb 15 percent. But the following year, as debt falls off, they’re expected to fall 9.4 percent.
Councillor Janet Dillon wondered if there was a way to smooth the costs.
Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennett said city has done that in the past and will keep it in mind when setting rates.
Councillor Dean Girbach said despite the increases in cost, the city’s model works.
“Again, it’s for water and sewer. It’s the most important thing we provide as a city. These rates need to be accommodating so we can continue to provide safe and secure service,” Girbach said.
(Editor's note: This article was corrected to say the vote wasn't unanimous. Mayor Brian Marl informed us he voted against the measure. We've also included Marl's reasoning with the correction).