Sewer-rate increase flushed in Belmont

Although Belmont residents won’t have to pay increased sewer rates for the next fiscal year, they may be faced with higher increases the following year and a new rate structure to determine how much households must pay.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the city rejected any rate increases and began looking into a rate structure for Belmont residents at the behest of Councilman Dave Warden.

Residents pay a minimum rate of approximately $250 annually unless they use more than half of the average sewer usage in the city. After that, a fee of $5 for every hundred cubic feet — one unit — is charged. The charge is calculated based on sewer usagefrom December to March each year.

Warden suggested that the city look into developing a split charge, with which sewer charges have two components: a fixed level, and a variable “volumetric” rate that would be dependent on how much is used.

“We’re going to try to get started developing it quickly, because we don’t want to be in a time crunch again next year,” said City Manager Jack Crist. “We hope to have it done before the start of the new year.”

Crist says he hopes that the new two-part charge plan will be designed to make up for the lack of increases this year and ensure that residents will not be hit with unbearable increases down the line.

But without increases this year, the city will have to trim a third of its $3.3 million capital improvement projects budget, which will delay pump-station and catch-basin rehabilitation projects and an analysis of the aging system’s capacity.

Warden’s idea of a fixed-level rate would help fund capital and infrastructure projects.

Had a 12 percent rate increase been approved Tuesday, the city would have still needed to cut $500,000 from the capital improvements budget.

And as the city’s sewer system continues to age, Crist and the city’s sewer consultants say that years without increases could lead to higher rate jumps for residents in the future.

“One consequence of not passing the increase this year: It may result in a slightly larger increase next year to catch up with things,” said Belmont’s sewer rate consultant John Farnkopf.

jgoldman@examiner.com


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