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Posted on: October 5, 2017

City offers clarification on proposed rate increase

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   At the September 28 meeting of the Independence City Commission meeting, city leaders introduced a proposal to increase fees for water, sewer and sanitation services. An official ordinance solidifying the rate increase will be presented for consideration at the October 12 commission meeting.

   While the proposal represents a 100 percent increase in the water fees, Whitehead explained, the planned increase for sewer rates is 16.5 percent and the increase for sanitation fees is set at 5 percent.

   “I believe people have misunderstood that the proposed increases would double their total monthly bill from the city,” Whitehead said. “This is not the case. In reality, the change would increase a customer’s total bill less than 34 percent.”

   According to water department tracking, Whitehead said, the average residential consumer in Independence uses approximately 4,000 gallons of water per month. He shared the following example of how that 4,000-gallon customer’s bill would change:

  • Current water charge: $17.17 – New fee: $34.34 ($17.17 increase)
  • Current sewer charge: $35.82 – New fee: $41.73 ($5.91 increase)
  • Current sanitation charge: $18.52 – New fee: $19.45 ($0.93 increase)

   Whitehead said the proposed rate increases are necessary for several reasons, including to help fund much-needed facility improvement projects at the city’s water plant; to support ongoing maintenance to water delivery systems; and to offset losses to inflation in a recent 18-year period when the water rates were not touched.

   “From 1993 to 2011, our city water rates remained flat, with no increase at all,” Whitehead said. “At the same time, costs of operation continued to rise with inflation, and the imbalance left us with little or no surplus to reinvest into our infrastructure.”

   Whitehead also noted that the proposed increase to service rates is considerably lower than the level of increase already approved by the city commission in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

   “The commission approved a 2018 budget that included a 125 percent increase in our water rates,” he said. “However, we pledged that staff would continue to pursue all available options for reducing the increase, and we were able to contain the increase to only 100 percent for water, 16.5 for sewer and 5 for sanitation.”

   The final proposed rates, Whitehead said, also are significantly lower than those suggested following a recent utility rate study commissioned by the city and performed by the Lochner civil engineering firm. That study recommended as much as a 170 percent increase in water rates, Whitehead said.

   One component of the study, he said, includes a review of water rates in surrounding communities. Even with the proposed increase, Independence water rates will remain comparable with other rates in southeast Kansas, Whitehead said, noting the following examples (water fee based on 4,000-gallon monthly usage):

   Current Rates:

  • Caney                         $47.40
  • Cherryvale                  $49.65
  • Coffeyville                   $29.06
  • Independence             $17.17
  • Parsons                       $31.22

   With Rate Increase:

  • Caney                         $47.40
  • Cherryvale                  $49.65
  • Coffeyville                   $29.06
  • Independence             $34.34
  • Parsons                       $31.22

   If the rate ordinance is adopted at the October 12 meeting, the new rates will take effect in December and customers will see their first increases on the January 2018 bills. 

   “We very much appreciate our citizens’ understanding of this issue and the importance of reinvesting in our infrastructure so that we may continue to deliver high-quality water service to our homes and businesses,” Whitehead said.

To view the press release and graphs click here.
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