Plainfield may lock in water rates for next 3 years

Brock A. Stein | 11/26/2014, 9:25 a.m.
The city of Chicago has increased water costs by 15 percent for 2015 and about 3.5 percent for the following ...
The village of Plainfield may set water rates for the next three years so homeowners can plan their budgets.

Plainfield trustees are considering a plan to lock in water rate increases for the next three years that will coincide with those coming from their city of Chicago supplier.

Water rates from their Lake Michigan supplier in Chicago have risen over the past three years, with increases in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to the tune of 25 percent, 15 percent and 15 percent, according to village documents.

Chicago passed another 15 percent increase for 2015, but will tie future rate hikes to the Producer Price Index, which would set those rate increases at closer to 3.5 percent.

In past years, the village has set water and sewer rates on an annual basis but is considering a multiyear approach similar to the practices in nearby Naperville, New Lenox and Wheaton.

Under the proposed plan, residents would see a 5.39 percent increase in their water bills in 2015, a 2.94 percent hike in 2016, and 2.98 percent in 2017. The biggest jump, in 2015, will mean a $4 increase in the average monthly bill of $46.56. In 2016 and 2017, monthly bills would rise $2.30 to $2.40.

A capital improvement fee of $8 per month would be reduced to $7.50 in both 2016 and 2017 under the proposed plan.

The advantage to the 3-year deal would be to give residents a locked-in cost from which to budget for their home expenses.

“The residents then have some certainty from the village,” Village Administrator Brian Murphy said. The multiyear plan shows that the village has a firm grasp on their budget, “and getting to a place where we can talk about long-term projections,” he said.

The downside, he said, would be trusting that the city of Chicago will adhere to its plan for more modest rate increases, Murphy said.

The village doesn’t make a profit on the sale of water to residents and would be looking at a $1.1 million deficit without the water rate increases, he said.

Trustee Jim Racich, speaking at the Monday village board meeting where the plan was discussed, said he remembered owning homes that drew their water from wells and said that the current water source for the village is a big step up in quality.

“The quality is being delivered,” he said. “With quality, you have to pay for it.”

The board plans to vote on the proposed rates at a future village board meeting.

Contact Brock A. Stein at Brocknewstips@gmail.com and on Twitter at @BrockAStein.