This summer, St. Charles residents likely will pay more to dispose of yard waste and trash, turn on the lights, take a shower and flush the toilet.
Aldermen gave preliminary approval Monday night to a series of rate hikes contained in the city's new budget. The increases are tied to bringing the operation of the city's utilities out of the red and locking in a long-term deal for leaf and brush pickup.
The city is expected to end the current fiscal year with a $426,000 deficit. Sales and income tax revenues didn't hit expectations. And a long winter bumped up costs for salt, snow removal and associated overtime for city staff. Rebounds in sales and income tax revenues are part of the city's forecast for the new budget. However, even though the city's property tax levy is flat for the sixth consecutive year, the budget does call for spending about $918,000 more than will come into the city's coffers from tax collection. Reimbursements are expected to wipe out that deficit by the end of the fiscal year.
The same can't be said for the city's utilities without a rate increase. Electricity consumption is on the decline in the city. The electric fund, water fund and wastewater fund are all operating with deficits that are being covered by reserves in other funds. Because of that, city officials want increase rates to make the utilities self-sufficient within the next two to four years.
The largest impact would be to resident's electricity bills. The proposed rate increase would tack on another $5.49 per month to the average bill. The average wastewater bill would rise about $3.99 per month. And the average water bill would trickle up $2.94 per month.
Likewise, the budget proposes a 13-cent per month increase to garbage stickers and a 74-cent per month increase to the yard waste fee. Combined, that's a $13.29 increase on monthly city service fees, roughly $160 per year.
Minick told aldermen that's still the best deal in the Tri-Cities area. Minick's budget presentation put the average annual utility costs for a St. Charles resident at $2,227. That's about $98 less than a Geneva resident pays a year and about $110 less than a Batavia resident pays, according to Minick's research. Naperville residents, however, pay about $37 less a year for utilities than St. Charles residents will under the city's new budget.
The change in the yard waste fee would lock in a five-year contract. However, city residents would see fewer pickups despite the added cost. There would be three leaf pickups instead of four, and seven brush pickups instead of eight. Better scheduling of the pickups is expected to result in no notable change in the quality of service.
The full city council must still take a vote on the increases before they are final. If approved, the higher rates will be reflected on June utility bills.