Trustees OK 5% increase in sewer charge, agree to ask PSC for 3% water rate hike
Village of Grafton residents and businesses can expect to soon pay more for sewer and water service.
The Village Board on Monday approved a 5% sewer-rate increase and agreed to file a request for a 3% water-rate hike with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
The increases, which were recommended by the Public Works Board, are scheduled to go into effect Sept. 20. The village last raised utility rates in 2014.
Both increases, officials said, are needed to help the village’s water utility offset operating expenses and debt service.
The proposed water-rate hike would raise the average residential customer’s bill for 12,000 gallons of use by $1.57 per quarter, to $53.02. The monthly increase would be 52 cents.
The new sewer rate will raise the average residential bill by $3.12 per quarter, to $65.64, for 12,000 gallons of use. The monthly increase is $1.04.
Utility Program Coordinator Larry Roy asked the board to take action on both rate increases in time for the changes to go into effect with the final quarter of 2016.
Roy said the village plans to use a “simplified rate case” application for the water-rate increase, which must be filed 45 days before the proposed effective date.
The simplified application, he told the board, allows water utilities to keep pace with increased expenses without going through a more costly process of hiring a consultant.
Village President Jim Brunnquell said one of the reasons for the rate-hike request is decreased water use by residents, especially during summer months. To encourage more water use, he suggested the board consider reinstating a sprinkling credit that was dropped in 2012.
However, Roy said, a cycle of rainy weather has been the biggest factor in declining use.
“The last three years, we’ve had pretty good rainfall. The grass has stayed green, and people haven’t needed to water their lawns as much,” Roy said.
Brunnquell also voiced concern about the impact an accompanying 3% increase on the fire protection charge would have on municipal budgets. The village and Town of Grafton share costs in the Grafton Fire Department budget based on service needs.
Brunnquell suggested the increase be delayed until January 2017 so it could be incorporated into the next fiscal year.
“I understand the reasoning (for the increase), but it’s not just a village department anymore,” Brunnquell said.
“We have a very defined formula on how we split operating costs. I don’t like doing it mid-year.”
Brunnquell requested the village communicate more closely with the town on the rate decisions.
Roy said the utility plans to have a comprehensive water and sewer rate study done in 2017. The study will be used to help design new rates “that will address both the current and forecasted operating conditions,” he said.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of the proposed rate increases, with Trustee Dave Antoine opposed. Trustees Sue Meinecke and Lisa Harbeck did not attend the meeting.