JOLIET – Joliet residents and businesses would see hikes in water and sewer rates every year if a proposal made to the City Council this week wins approval.
Council members’ comments after a presentation of the rate hike proposal showed they were reluctant to raise rates at all.
“I think we need to search every avenue we can before going forward with this,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said.
Quillman and other council members suggested the utility department look for uncollected bills and other potential revenue before they consider a 9 percent rate hike proposed for Oct. 1.
But that would be just the first of four rate hikes proposed by staff and a consultant.
Consultant David Naumann with the firm Burns & McDonnell said he would recommend the 9 percent hike, followed by an 8 percent increase in 2016, 6 percent in 2017 and 5 percent in 2018.
Naumann said the city in five years should review rates again. But the study from Burns & McDonnell proposes annual rate hikes into 2024, giving a glimpse of what residents would pay if the council agrees with the findings.
Rates, according to the study, would continue to increase by 5 percent in 2019, 8 percent in 2010, 7 percent in both 2021 and 2022, 5 percent in 2023 and 2 percent in 2024.
The study proposes a second option in which commercial and industrial users would pay more than residential customers.
But the average residential increase would still be 8.6 percent this year if the city goes with option two.
Rate hikes for commercial and industrial customers would range between 8.8 percent and 11.4 percent depending on how much water they use.
Council members appeared focused on the impact on residential customers.
Councilman Jim McFarland told Naumann the study compared Joliet rates with those of communities with higher incomes.
“We’re a very impoverished community,” McFarland said.
Burns & McDonnell compared Joliet to 17 other communities, most of them in Will County. But it included comparable small cities in the Chicago region.
Joliet had the sixth highest rates, slightly higher than Elgin but far lower than Aurora, which was the 13th highest.
The average residential water and sewer bill in Joliet would go from $54.47 today to $59.38 on Oct. 1 if the city approves a 9 percent hike. Under option two, with the 8.6 percent increase in residential rates, the average bill would go to $59.18.
Naumann said Joliet, which has held rates steady since 2011, has not reflected the national norm, as communities regularly raise rates to keep up with Environmental Protection Agency mandates and the needs of aging infrastructure.
“What we’re seeing as an industry is an increase of 5 to 6 percent a year in water and sewer rates,” Naumann told the council.
PROPOSED 9 PERCENT HIKE IN WATER AND SEWER RATES
• Average monthly bill for residential senior: $36.18 now; $39.43 on Oct. 1
• Average monthly residential bill: $54.47 now; $59.38 on Oct. 1
• Average bill in 17 surveyed area communities: $69 a month now
Source: Burns & McDonnell Rate Study for Joliet