MARENGO – Starting Aug. 1, most Marengo residents will see a 13.9 percent jump in their quarterly water bills, as a combination of factors caused City Council members to hike water and sewer rates.
Seeing a significant decline in city water use, the council earlier this week approved, 6-1, a rate increase that is meant to shorten a projected $169,153 deficit in the city’s water and sewer fund, a part of the city’s proposed budget that takes effect May 1.
Council members struggled to decide on a rate increase, after administrators presented aldermen with three options.
The council ultimately approved the one that raises the city’s flat water fee by $10 and extends the fee to all users for the first time. The other options would also have created an across-the-board flat fee and increased it by either $7 or $13.
“I hate all these choices,” said Alderwoman Nicole DeBoer. “With that being said ... option two is the only one where we come close without killing ourselves.”
The increase comes after population decline and dry summers dramatically dropped city water use over the past two years, said City Administrator Gary Boden.
Even with it, officials will have to use about $39,000 from reserves this year to make up the deficit, he said.
While water and sewer revenue has declined, the council opted against spending cuts to curb the deficit.
During the council meeting earlier this week, outgoing Alderwoman Carole Bartman suggested the council examine cuts, but the idea never gained traction.
Once it takes effect Aug. 1, the latest rate increase meant to shorten a deficit in the city’s water and sewer fund will coincide with another water rate increase aldermen approved last year that has long upset residents.
“I don’t think we can hit people with substantial increases all at once,” Bartman said
Bartman was the lone “no” vote on the rate increase. Alderman Dennis Hammortree was absent.
Last spring, the council approved a gradual water rate increase that allows city officials to pay back the $12 million loan needed to finance Marengo’s new wastewater treatment plant, which opened in late March.
An average residential water user in Marengo was expected to see their quarterly bill jump from $197 to about $214 on Aug. 1, under the increase aldermen approved for the treatment plant.
With council’s latest rate increase, an average residential water user will now see their quarterly bill increase from $197 to $224 on Aug. 1, according to city figures.