Thursday, October 09, 2008
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Make your budget changes now

Lincoln sewer rates expected to increase Nov. 1

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[October 09, 2008]  Last month city officials began an overhaul of the sewer billing system. Their goal: to pay for the present, keep up with increasing costs and needs, and prepare for the future. The city needs to recover $2.9 million from users to pay debt service for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and sewer system.

Most of the council attended the committee sessions when sewer manager Dave Kitzmiller provided a detailed overview. Kitzmiller, with the assistance of city clerk Melanie Riggs, had prepared flow charts and analyses that included current billing figures, debt service costs, operation costs and future needs for the sewer system.

HardwareAfter hours of work, the committee was ready with proposed new rates this week. But when the proposal was brought to the table on Monday evening, it was agreed that with so many council members absent, including Mayor Beth Davis-Kavelman, it should be tabled.

The measure is now slated for the next voting session, on Oct. 20, and if passed, new rates would go into effect on Nov. 1.

But for those who want to budget for the increase, it is simple to know what to expect. Anyone getting a sewer bill from the city of Lincoln can plan ahead by adding 20 percent to their current bill.

Sewer use billing falls into four categories: residential, commercial, institutional and industrial service.

Residential sewer service

Residential billing is simpler than other categories. The city does not receive copies of the residential water bills. Residential users are billed at a flat rate, whether there is one person or more in a household.

Residential bills would go to a flat rate of $20 per month, which is close to a 20 percent increase at this time. A dollar would be added every other year. This would be an approximate 5 percent increase every other year. The flat $1 addition every other year changes the percentage rate each year, but the rates would stay close to a 2.5 percent increase per year.

Commercial, institutional and industrial sewer service

Across the board, these other billing categories would also have a 20 percent increase. Future increases would be the same percentage as the residential and would be added every other year.

In addition to their monthly rate, these users are monitored for usage and contaminants. There are three areas where they might incur added charges.

An industrial user is any nonresidential user with high-strength waste, Kitzmiller said. The wastewater is tested regularly to measure for the effects of contaminants on biochemical oxygen demand and for suspended solids.

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The current industrial recovery surcharge rates are 51 cents for biochemical oxygen demand over 200 milligrams per liter, and 30 cents for suspended solids over 240 milligrams per liter. The city has two users that are billed for biochemical oxygen demand and suspended solids.

(Click here for a full description of why and how biochemical oxygen demand is measured.)

Additionally, large users may also be monitored and charged for high use. Water bills are used to assess flow and usage. If there would be water use over 3,300 cubic feet (an equivalent of 25,000 gallons) on a specific day, a flow charge would be added. This fee could amount to between $1,000 and $6,000 a year on any one industrial user, Kitzmiller said. There are four industrial users on the system now.

In a rough estimate, the new rates would yield an additional $273,000 from residential, $127,000 from industrial and institutional, and $55,000 from commercial per year (for the next two years), Kitzmiller said.

The city clerk's office explained that billing cycles vary for each of the categories. Residential bills go out every four months. Commercial bills are sent out every two months. Industrial and institution bills are on a monthly cycle.

There is one exception to the residential bills. Centennial Courts and the Logan County Housing Authority prefer to be billed monthly. This is because of the sheer numbers involved. Each apartment gets a separate bill.

A $25 penalty is added to any past-due bills.

A four-month $80 residential bill would become $105. A good suggestion is to put your due date on your calendar because you are responsible to pay your bill on time, even if it would get lost in the mail sometime.




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