CHAMPAIGN — A proposed sanitary sewer rate increase is scheduled to top city council members' agenda when they launch into another round of budget talks on Tuesday night.
City officials say they would need a 6 percent increase in the fee charged to property owners to keep pace with expenses that have grown since they last increased the fee in 2011. Without the raise, they say the shortfall likely would lead to more sewer breakdowns and sewage backups on private property.
City officials are proposing that council members adopt a fee of $3.02 per average daily cubic feet of water usage, up from the current $2.85 rate. That means a typical single-family home using an average of 25 cubic feet of water per day — or about 187 gallons — would pay $75.50 annually, up from the current $71.25.
Businesses would be affected by the six percent increase, too. According to city documents, a small office building might use around 47 cubic feet of water per day and see an $8 annual increase in its bill. A full-service restaurant, which typically would use roughly 745 cubic feet of water per day, could see a $126 annual increase.
The city collects a little more than $2 million in sanitary sewer fee revenue each year. About $1 million of that pays for seven full-time public works employees assigned to the sewer crew, and about $550,000 goes directly toward construction. The rest goes toward other miscellaneous costs.
The costs associated with maintaining and fixing city sewers has risen, according to a memo to the city council, but the revenue the city collects from the fee has not. Without a six percent increase in the sanitary sewer fee, city officials say, they eventually would have to stop coating sewers with a protective lining that keeps smalls cracks from getting bigger.
According to the memo, the "aggressive" approach to sewer maintenance decreases the amount of emergency repairs workers need to make and it lessens the frequency of sewage backups on private property.
The increase and the $120,000 in new revenue it would produce each year would allow city officials to continue that preventative maintenance and keep cracking sewers from breaking down entirely.
How the fee is calculated
The city is contemplating a rate of $3.02 that would be applied to the average daily use to produce the annual sewer fee. The average daily use is calculated based on a reading taken between November and March. So if you used an average of 25 cubic feet per day, your sewer fee would be $75.50 - 25 times $3.02.