By Dennis Minich
Harrisonville residents will likely see increases in their utility bills next year. During a work session before the regular Board of Aldermen meeting on Sept. 16, members of the board were briefed on the utilities’ financial picture by Eric Patterson, director of public works.
According to Patterson, the base rate on utilities which is used for maintenance and equipment, has not been raised for several years and the if rates are not raised incrementally, residents could be facing a major increase within the next four years as the costs of operations drive the department into the red.
Sewer rates will also rise for two reasons: major renovations will be required at the city’s sewer plants within the next two-to-three years and the fund, which has been subsidized by the water department will have to stand on its own.
“Right now, 67 percent of the income comes from water sold. Currently water subsidizes sewer because we used to allow it, but we can’t allow it anymore,” Patterson said.
Water rates will remain unchanged as the city awaits results of a rate study which was authorized earlier in the year.
Based on the projections, staff will be asking the board to approve a $7 base rate on the average electric bill with a 1 per-cent increase each year after 2020. On the sewer side, the increase would be from $10.45 to $15 per month for the base rate of 1,000 gallons usage. Sewer rates are determined by averaging three months water usage during the winter months.
Patterson said the average consumer would see rates go up from $30.85 to $40.20 per month. However, always of concern are the older individuals on fixed incomes who use minimal amounts of water and power. Patterson said people in that range would see an increase of about $4.55 per month.
Mike Tholen, acting city administrator, explained the power rates fluctuate with usage and power costs. Those costs are variable and covered by the power rate adjustments. However, the fixed costs are a separate issue and where the increase is necessary.
“The base rates have to make up for all of the other expenses of running the department. We haven’t increased those rates, but the costs of everything has been going up,” he said.