Emporia residents will see an 11 percent increase in their utility bills next year once the city’s 2020 budget is finalized in the coming weeks.
The increase would amount to an additional $6 each month for a household using 5,000 gallons per month.
Mayor Jon Geitz said the increase is necessary to help offset the costs of improvements for Emporia’s water, sewer and trash facilities.
“Unfortunately, a big portion of rate increases every year has been the wastewater treatment plan,” Geitz said. “Unfortunately, again, the city commission had very little choice but to comply with federal regulations. The cost of complying with those regulations was a generational update to our wastewater treatment plant.”
Geitz said investments in the water treatment plant have also been expensive, with improvements coming with multi-million dollar price tags.
“Any time there is infrastructure, it is seven-, sometimes eight-figure investments the city’s making and unfortunately, as the consumers of those services, the cost of those services goes up and the price of services goes up as well,” he said.
Geitz said he and the other commissioners do not take those increases lightly, but emphasized they were required in order to keep the city’s utilities operational.
“Our water fund is actually below policy on reserve for the next couple of years,” he said. “The commission is comfortable with that because, over time, the trends show it will go back over that. That’s one of those things where the five-year budget process has really helped.”
Geitz said, overall, he was pleased with the city’s projected budget, which will keep the mill levy flat in the coming year.
“The city is able to fund its priorities,” he said. “Public safety, streets, things like that, but also the cost of maintaining our utility funds is going up every year. Unfortunately our citizens will notice an increase on their city bills. ... The city’s expenses go up annually, and it’s been a goal of the commission the last few years to make sure that we can do better projecting of the future costs of providing our services so we don’t have huge jumps one year. To me, that’s some progress that we’ve made on the budget — to make sure the services we provide are adequately funded.”
A public hearing on the 2020 budget will be held at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 7 in the Municipal Courtroom during the commission’s next action session.