Homeowners in North Riverside will see their water rates jump by 28 percent on Sept. 1, after village trustees on Aug. 14 voted 4 to 1 in favor of the fee hike.
In addition, to the increase for single-family homeowners, the owners of multi-family residential buildings and commercial properties will see their water rates go up by 17.3 percent.
Trustees Jason Bianco, Deborah Czajka, Joseph Mengoni and Theresa Sarro voted for the increase. Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos voted against it. Trustee Fernando Flores was absent from the Aug. 14 village board meeting.
The increases were rolled out in the wake of the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission increasing its rates to its municipal customers and to cover the cost of water and sewer infrastructure improvements planned for the next several years.
North Riverside Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti said the fee increases are projected to bring in an additional $360,000 to the village’s water enterprise fund in 2017-18. The fund pays for not only purchasing water from the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission but for the ongoing maintenance of the village’s water and sewer systems.
North Riverside has budgeted more than $850,000 in water and sewer system improvements in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which began May 1 and projects similar expenditures in coming years.
Among the local improvements planned are the start of a multi-year water main installation project on Cermak Road in the fall, the final phase of a sewer lining in early 2018 and repainting the water standpipe in the next two to five years.
Beginning June 1, the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission raised the rate it charges for water after the city of Chicago bumped its rates to the commission. But in addition to the increase in the cost of water, the commission also passed along to its municipal customers a charge to help fund the construction of a supply main, which is presently being built through Forest Park, Oak Park and the West Side of Chicago.
The new supply main is being funded by a $17 million low-interest loan through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and will serve as a back-up supply main in the event its primary main, which is now more than 75 years old, fails.
Any single-family residential customer who is charged the minimum water bill – which is based on 4,000 gallons per bi-monthly billing cycle – will see their water rate go up from $36.20 to $46.40. That means the annual increase for a residential water customer being charged a minimum bill will be $61.20.
Any customer that exceeds the minimum bill see the same 28-percent increase for whatever water charges are billed above 4,000 gallons.
Multi-family/commercial water customers receiving the present minimum bill of $110.55 every two months, will see that bill increase to $129.75 — a total annual increase of $115.20. Multi-family/commercial customers exceeding the minimum 7,500 gallons every two months will see a similar 17.3 percent increase for the additional water used.
The village has changed how it is applying its separate water operations fee, which it instituted in 2014 to help fund ongoing water and sewer maintenance. The annual $30 fee resulted in about $450,000 in revenue in 2016-17.
But officials say the across-the-board fee was unfair, because it charged the same fee to both residential and large commercial customers. It was especially unpopular with senior citizens on fixed incomes.
“After we had it in place, we realized through the feedback we were getting that it was hitting seniors the hardest,” said Scarpiniti.
While the change in the fee structure won’t bring in any more revenue, said Scarpiniti, it will fix the imbalance. The water operations fee will now be based on the size of the water meter the customer has.
Residential water customers will continue to pay the $30 annual fee, unless they are senior citizens, in which case the fee will be $10. Anyone with a water meter 1-inch or larger (which will affect larger commercial and multi-family residential properties) will pay between $40 and $130 a year.