Eureka officials are poised to more than double water and sewer rates for homeowners and commercial enterprises.
The Board of Aldermen voted Dec. 17 to approve the new rate structure, and is expected to vote Jan. 7 for an ordinance putting the rate changes into the city code.
Eureka Mayor Sean Flower said he plans for the new rates to be effective Feb. 1.
Flower said the increases will allow the city to bring its water and sewer systems out of the red and into the black, provide funds for maintenance and allow the city to start building a capital improvements fund.
However, Flower said, if residents want to see improvements in the quality of the city’s water, another rate increase would possibly be needed.
Flower presented the proposed new residential rate structure at the Nov. 19 aldermanic meeting.
He said the average residential sewer bill now is $13 a month and the proposed rate would be about $35.
Although that is more than double the current cost for a Eureka household, it compares well to the average residential sewer bill from the Metropolitan Sewer District ($70.35) and for Windswept Farms subdivision, under development and recently annexed into Eureka ($49.58).
“Even after the increase, you are still way below what you would pay anywhere else but here,” Flower said.
The current average commercial sewer bill is $14.50 and the proposed rate would be $35.
The average water bill for a Eureka resident is currently $24 a month, while the proposed rate would be $45. The proposed rate has a base fee of $15 and a $2.50 charge per every 1,000 gallons.
That compares to an average monthly bill of $51.55 in the Mirasol subdivision, outside Eureka, and Windswept Farms.
The average Missouri American Water customer pays $73.96 a month for water, Flower noted.
The current average commercial water bill is $22.74 monthly with the proposed average bill rising to $45.
Over the summer, Flower did an analysis of the water and sewer systems and found the city was losing money.
On Nov. 19, he provided handouts showing that in fiscal year 2020, unless there are rate adjustments, the city will be $107,925 in the red to provide sewer services to residents and commercial enterprises and $481,138 in the red to provide water. The combined deficit is $589,063.
In a Facebook post, Flower reported that the city has spent about $1 million more than revenue in the last three years.
The four-year loss would be $1.7 million to $1.8 million by the end of July 2020, Flower reported.
If the rates are increased, he said the city could use the money being spent on covering the systems’ losses on something else, like road improvements.
The city is currently having its water system appraised by Missouri American Water, which could be the first step toward possibly selling the system.
“I would anticipate we would hear back from them in January,” Flower said.
However, he said changing the city’s rate structure has nothing to do with the appraisal from Missouri American Water.
The appraisal was approved Aug. 6 with a 4-2 vote. Both Ward 2 representatives, Bryan Kiefer and Carleen Murray, voted against the appraisal.
Flower said getting the appraisal is just to see what the system is worth.
“Regardless of what happens with Mo. American, or other improvements, I personally believe that the water and sewer systems should pay for themselves,” he said.