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DeKalb City Council approves planned 2.6% water rate increase to parallel cost of living

DeKALB – The City of DeKalb is leaving in place a scheduled 2.6% water rate increase to keep up with system repairs and avoid a larger adjustment later, officials said this week.

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said during the City Council’s Monday meeting the 2.6% increase in water rates based on the consumer price index, or CPI, was something that was already in the city code due to past council action, and the increase was meant to be automatic. He said the adjusted rates take effect July 1, should the council greenlight what’s already in city code.

“If the council concurs that we ought to stay with the cost of living increases, on the average – and homes will vary depending on their water use, size of family – … what we’re looking at is about an $11.63 increase not per month, but per year,” Nicklas said.

The city council agreed by majority on Monday night to not change the expected water rate increase, per city staff recommendation.

According to a Tuesday social media post from the city, adjustments are scheduled annually so revenues keep up with the cost to operate the water system and make infrastructure repairs. However, revenues decreased due to lower water usage related to conservation efforts and fewer Northern Illinois University students in the area.

“People are taking it seriously,” Nicklas said, referring to the water conservation efforts. “So that’s good overall for the environment. It’s not so good for the water income that we had been counting on.”

More than $5 million in water system repairs were done from 2016 to 2020, city officials wrote in the social media post. Another $2.7 million are planned this year.

In the meeting Monday, council members agreed water rates needed to keep pace with existing costs. First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Morris said she believes it’s best to pay for those repairs now.

“If we keep pace currently and make this choice now to ensure that our costs reflect the cost of repairs, what we do is we ensure that we don’t in the future have to tax in order to offset this cost,” Morris said. “So we give people the choice to water their lawns and how they use their water, and what that does is it puts the price where we feel it, rather than increasing our taxes later, which we know everyone doesn’t want.”

Fourth Ward Alderman Scott McAdams said consumers are facing fiscal inflation like they haven’t before amid economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he doesn’t have a problem with the increase itself, but he wanted to see if the city could postpone the increase for a couple of months to see where inflation falls as economic recovery continues.

“I realize it’s a marginal rate increase, 2.6%,” McAdams said. “But if we can save a little bit of money for the consumers in the city as they face higher prices and everything else, I wonder if we can make a small gesture toward the economic recovery of our residents.”

Second Ward Alderwoman Barb Larson said she was in agreement with Morris.

“I don’t think anyone in this room would want to turn on their tap and have brown water or no water come out,” Larson said. “And so, to me, I think to be proactive and to have funds available to keep our water supply safe and clean, I think [keeping the water increases] is the choice I would make.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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