Council authorizes Beatty to study sewer rate hike
In the next month, the Eudora City Council will hike monthly wastewater rates to address what was called an "inherited problem."
The problem is attributed to past inaction in passing on needed rate increases and the payments on a $5 million revolving loan the city took out from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are coming due.
"You've truly inherited a problem that's been going on over the last five years with this budget," City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said.
In order to pay for the improvements the city has done to the sewer system, including completion of the east interceptor, it would need to raise a significant amount of money before the end of the year to make the current budget feasible.
"If we don't raise rates we won't have sufficient funds to operate this budget this year," Beatty said.
To make the budget solvent again, the council will vote next month on the exact form of the rate increase.
During Tuesday's meeting, the council authorized Beatty to research and suggest the best method for the hike.
During discussion, Beatty offered a possibility of increasing the base water rate to $32.60 per household in addition to having the city adjust its current system.
For the average household that could translate to a $10 to $15 increase overall.
During conversation, Beatty told the council that the city's water hook up fees were relatively low, currently about $100.
Another way to raise funds to pay for the sewer improvements could be to raise the connection fee to a level more along the lines of Tonganoxie's, which is at $2,500.
"I would definitely be in favor of looking into raising the tap fee," Councilman Kevin Miller said.
Beatty suggested the council make a rate increase this year to make up for the years where rates didn't change.
After the council decides on the current rate increase, the city will start an analysis of the sewer system and its cost to see how best to move into the future.
"The next increase may not have to be so substantial, or none at all, if we can switch into this rate increase I'm recommending to you," Beatty said.
Eudora isn't alone in dealing with wastewater rate increases, Beatty said.
"This is a national problem. Rates are jumping high all over," Beatty said.
In order to lessen the strain any significant rate hike could have the on the poor or elderly, the council decided to look into ways for them to shoulder the brunt and conserve water.
The city will also send out a bulk mailing on the increase, if it's adopted, to explain the need.
If it passes at the end of January, the new rates will take effect in the following months.
"We're just going to do the best we can with what we've inherited. That's all we can do," councilman Scott Hopson said.