City approves sewer increase rates
Published 10:20 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016
In an effort to save money for the capital projects at Austin’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Austin City Council approved sewer rate increases Monday night.
Public Works Director Steven Lang said the increased rates would help with domestic wastewater improvements, operation and maintenance of the sanitary sewer collection system, capital improvements and sanitary sewer lift stations as well.
“We review our rates every couple of years,” Lang said. “In our CIP [Capital Improvement Plan] we have large infrastructure projects planned at the wastewater treatment plant and that’s why we’re planning ahead with these increases, for those future projects.”
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The increases will come in two stages. On April 1, the connection charge will increase from $7.98 to $8.78 and the flow charge will increase from $2.04 to $2.24, Lang said. Another increase will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017
Austin has a connection fee of $7.98 for every parcel throughout the community. They charge $2.04 per unit and each home typically uses about eight units per month. An upper Midwest survey of a five-state area was done and it showed how Austin compared with other communities throughout Minnesota and the Midwest. Austin was the lowest in that comparison with $24.30. In 2017, that rate will increase to $27.98, which would move Austin to the middle of that path, but on the lower side of it, Lang said.
Two different funding sources are utilized to pay for operations, maintenance and capital projects, Lang said. One is the sewer user rate, which is based on a set fee connection charge and for the amount of water you use. The second is the sewer access charge fee, which was recently adopted in the last few years.
“Every project at the waste water treatment plant is large,” Lang said. “It seems like you can’t do any project today without the cost being a million dollars.”
The two most recent projects were $3 million each. Lang said it takes quite some time to earn up $6 million worth of capital, especially if only $1.4 million is put away each year.
With the new rates, $1.4 million would increase to $2.1 million saved each year.
“It would increase our ability to save money,” Lang said. “It allows us to hold a budget for some of those larger capital improvements that are identified by the CIP.”