Columbus City Council tonight is expected to approve water and sewer rate hikes for 2016 that will increase the average municipal customer's bill by 3.3 percent.
According to the text of the legislation, water rates will rise by 4 percent next year, sewer rates will rise by 3 percent, and stormwater rates will rise by 1 percent. The text of the legislation says that when those hikes are considered, the overall impact on a typical Columbus residential customer's bill is 3.31 percent and 3.49 percent for a typical residential customer outside of the city. Outside city customers are not charged stormwater fees. The hikes would increase water and sewer bills by an average of 34 dollars a year for a Columbus household of four. Bills for customers outside of the city would increase an average of 40 dollars a year. This ends a string of three consecutive years in which water rates increased by 3 percent or less. Rates had been rising by 5 percent or more in previous years. The recommendations made by the local Sewer and Water Advisory board in October will generate an estimated 5.3 million additional dollars to fund water and sewer system upgrades. Rates have increased annually since 2006, as part of consent decrees reached with state regulators that settled lawsuits about water and sewage overflows getting into local waterways and homes. The increases are helping fund 2.5 billion dollars worth of infrastructure upgrades. The city is also upgrading drinking water plants as required by EPA rules enacted in 2012, with many of the improvements designed to remove algae toxins and nitrates from the groundwater the plants process. The city says the rate increases compare favorably with cities of similar size, and some senior and low-income customers may be eligible for a municipal discount on their bills. Franklin County and most of Columbus' suburbs purchase their water from the city.