by TaLeiza Calloway
Residents will see a hike in water and sewer rates next year.
Members of the St. Joseph City Council voted 5-0 to approve the increase that will help offset the debt in the city’s water-and-sewer funds, city officials said. The debts are general-obligation debts backed by taxpayers. The effect of the proposed rate increase on an average single-family unit is $6.85, about a 10-percent increase on a monthly bill.
Water-line charges will go from $12.50 per unit per bi-month to $18. The charge for water usage will see an increase of 20 cents, bringing it to $3.20 per 1,000 gallons. Sewer-utility rates will go from $2.65 to $2.80 per 1,000 gallons. Even with the rate increase, the city still falls in the middle of the pack for utility-bill charges in the area, St. Joseph Finance Director Lori Bartlett said previously.
The council also voted to implement a street-light utility fee. The vote was 4-1 with council member Dale Wick voting against the move. Specifically, city officials agreed to remove $42,500 from the city’s property-tax levy for the change.
Street lighting is included in the city’s property-tax levy. By pulling the street lighting expense from the levy, instead of residents and businesses paying taxes to the county for street lighting, they will pay the city directly every two months, St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens said.
St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz, an advocate for the street-light utility, reminded council members the proposal was not an attempt to generate revenue.
“The goal is to distribute lighting fees across the community,” he said.
A public hearing is required to implement the fee change. That hearing is expected to occur early next year. The fee will be implemented in the first few months of the new year, Weyrens said. The first billing to reflect the change is expected in March.