Elmhurst water rates on rise -- but not as much as first thought

By Rachel Matuch
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 2/22/2019 5:29 PM

Elmhurst residents soon will be paying more on their water and sewer bills -- but the increase is less than half what city council tentatively approved just two weeks ago.

The typical water user consuming roughly 12,000 gallons for each two-month billing period will pay an estimated $6.60 more a bill, or about $3.30 more a month. The council voted Tuesday to approve the increase, which will apply to usage billed on or after March 4.


The 6 percent city water rate increase is less than half of the 15 percent increase the council approved on Jan. 22. (The 3 percent sewer rate increase and the decision not to increase the capital investment recovery charge rates are unchanged from that meeting.)

Based on feedback from the earlier discussion, the council's finance committee asked staff members to come up with alternative plans.

To offset the lower rate increase, the city will tap into a $4 million bond fund set aside for stormwater improvement projects. Those projects have stalled, so the city plans to use the available funds for capital improvements, including catching up on service to water mains and sanitary sewer lining.

Officials plan to issue new bonds for the stormwater projects when they are ready to move forward.

Alderman Mike Brennan said the work needs to be done to catch up with infrastructure needs. "From a pragmatic perspective, we're playing catch-up, and there's no way to avoid the issue," he said.

Alderman Bob Dunn expressed concern about taking the bond funds originally intended for the stormwater projects, but said he supports the plan as a one-time strategy to get the city back on track.

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The city is currently behind on updates needed to keep it on a 90-year cycle for all of the city's water mains and sanitary sewer lines.

Alderman Michael Bram cast the only dissenting vote, voicing concerns about the large decrease over the proposal from two weeks prior.

"From a resident perception perspective, it looks better to have a lower monthly water bill, but is that the better way to finance it? I don't know," he said after the meeting.

Mayor Steve Morley, meanwhile, said he was disappointed only 10 percent of Elmhurst residents have signed up for the WaterSmart program that allows them to monitor their own water use and catch spikes, such as from a leaky toilet.

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