For the first time in more than a decade, Riverside homeowners will face an increase in the rates they pay for maintenance of the village’s sewer system. On Sept. 15, trustees voted 5 to 0 to increase the sewer fees by 40 percent, from $1.25 per unit (100 cubic feet) to $1.75 per unit.

That means the combined water/sewer rate charged every other month will go from $10.59 to $11.09 per unit, meaning the average residential customer will see an annual increase in fees of between $45 and $60, according to figures provided by the village of Riverside.

“We haven’t had an increase for many, many years, and [the present rate] is not a good evaluation of the capital costs attributable to sewers,” said Village Manager Jessica Frances. 

The bulk of the charges to customers that flow into the village’s water/sewer enterprise fund are charges for water, which have been used to subsidize sewer improvements.

“We need to make sure we’re collecting enough to recover costs for both water and sewer,’ Frances said.

According to Frances, village staff arrived at the 50-cent increase based on a survey of six surrounding communities. Riverside’s sewer fees were on the low end at $150 per year to an average customer. The highest average sewer fees annually nearby were LaGrange Park ($265) and Brookfield ($250).

With the 40-percent increase the average Riverside customer will end up paying about $210 in sewer maintenance fees. The village, meanwhile, will collect about $460,000 annually as a result of the increased fee compared to the roughly $327,000 it collects now.

Sewer fees pay for ongoing maintenance and debt service related to improvements of Riverside’s roughly 50 miles of storm and sanitary sewers. The hike comes at a time when the village is looking to ramp up sewer improvements to mitigate basement flooding.

A $2.4 million storm sewer separation project in the village’s First Division has been delayed after Riverside’s engineering firm discovered discrepancies between its sewer maps and reality. The engineering firm is now estimating the First Division sewer improvement project will double in cost.

The village’s water/sewer fund had a cash surplus at the end of 2015 of about $4.5 million. The last time Riverside increased sewer fees was in December 2002, when the rate was almost doubled, from 65 cents per unit to $1.25.

The new sewer fee of $1.75 per unit will go into effect Nov. 1 and be reflected in bills mailed beginning in January 2017.