2018 Marietta sewer rates to rise 11.89%

Marietta City Council has begun discussions for next year’s budget this week and Tuesday’s meetings focused on the coming hike in sewer rates.

Sewer customers are to see an 11.89 percent increase on their first bill in 2018. In 2017 the increase was 1.5 percent from the year prior.

“Our sewer rates are mandated by ordinance to capture all current operating costs,” explained Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber, who runs the city’s budget numbers. “Under that are the costs of sewer administration, operations and a segregated debt service and where the debt service is on a volume basis the administrative portion is billed on a fixed fee to every customer.”

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D, 4th ward, chair of council’s finance committee, further explained to the newest faces in the room, Geoff Schenkel, 4th ward-elect, and Cassidi Shoaf, at-large-elect, that the sewer services, like water, are run on a customer basis and that the funds captured by billing can only be used for projects within the sewer fund.

The increase in next year’s bills will be the same for both customers within the city limits and outside since all sewer customers are billed the same rate, Dauber explained.

Historically, looking back to the increase from 2008 forward, the following have been the percents of change in volume rate each year:

≤ 2009: 1.02 percent increase.

≤ 2010: 12.83 percent increase.

≤ 2011: 2.69 percent increase.

≤ 2012: 0.29 percent decrease.

≤ 2013: 11.69 percent increase.

≤ 2014: 18.84 percent increase.

≤ 2015: 6.16 percent increase.

≤ 2016: 9.95 percent increase.

≤ 2017: 1.5 percent increase.

With the proposed increase next year the average increase each year over the last 10 years would be 7.628 percent.

Dauber’s numbers were further broken down Tuesday by the typical sewer bill for customers disposing of 500 cubic feet per bi-monthly bill cycle, 1,000 cubic feet per bi-monthly bill cycle and 1,500 cubic feet per bi-monthly bill cycle.

If the total bi-monthly sewer portion of a bill currently costs $41.91, then next year it will cost $44.82 including the administrative fee, which was lowered from $15.01 to $14.72.

If the total bi-monthly sewer portion of a bill currently costs $68.81, next year it will cost $74.92.

If the total bi-monthly sewer portion of a bill currently costs $95.71, next year it will cost $105.02

Vukovic and Dauber also noted that had the planned additional flows and customer base been realized from the city’s contract with the county to sewer Devola and Oak Grove on schedule by the end of last year, rates across the entire customer base would have dropped rather than increased.

Instead of a $44.81 bi-monthly bill, a customer currently disposing of 500 cubic feet down the drain could have seen their sewer portion drop to $39.79.

“I’m offering this in comparison in order of magnitude,” stated Dauber.

“The bottom line is in order for our equipment in that plant to operate more efficiently and keep bills reasonable we need that volume,” added Vukovic.

The city is currently still in negotiations with the county on the timeline and cost of the city’s renovation of the wastewater treatment plant and contracted obligation of the county to sewer the remaining homes of Devola that are currently on septic systems and to sewer Oak Grove.

Meanwhile the county commissioners are also in the midst of negotiations with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on a timeline to sewer Devola for environmental concerns.

When contacted following the council meetings County Commissioner David White said the OEPA in the last negotiation discussion in October had held fast regarding the environmental concerns in Devola and the expected work to sewer the area.

“But they did indicate they may be willing to be flexible on the timeline,” he said.

White said the county commissioners plan to provide a proposal to the OEPA before Thanksgiving.

Budget discussions will continue into December by Marietta City Council in order to be voted upon by a new council Jan. 1 after the new council body, including Schenkel, Shoaf and Mike Scales, are sworn in that morning.

“The primary function of city council is to manage the city’s money,” said Vukovic to Shoaf and Schenkel Tuesday. “It’s important to be skeptical and to question things so that you can make an informed decision on Jan. 1… This is all public record.”