Water and sewer rates in Oak Park are set to go up in 2015, following an exhaustive study delivered to the Village Board this year by a private engineering consultant. The board voted Nov. 17, 2014 to change water rates in Oak Park and included the new rates in the 2015 budget.
What types of services does my water and sewer charge cover?
Your water and sewer bill reflects two different rate schedules: a volume charge for water and sewer service, and a small fixed minimum monthly charge for all customers, which helps fund basic costs associated with providing a reliable water and sewer connection to homes and businesses. The volume charge, however, is the most important part of the bill, and it represents a lot more than just the price charged by the City of Chicago for water delivery. The charge includes ongoing maintenance for the Village’s water and sewer infrastructure, including underground storage reservoirs, pumping stations and 105 miles of water mains.
Why is my bill going up now?
Water and sewer expenses are projected to quickly exceed the revenue gathered through Village fees. Starting in 2011, the City of Chicago embarked on a fee increase schedule that has raised prices each year for all users of Lake Michigan water. To keep enough money in the water and sewer fund to ensure reliable water and sewer services, the Village must pass on these rate increases to individual customers. In addition, the Village is facing unavoidable capital improvements over the next five years to keep the water and sewer system operating safely and smoothly. The three most recent capital improvement projects were funded by taking on debt – a stopgap solution at best.
When was the last time my water bill went up?
The last volume rate increase was Jan. 1, 2014, which reflected the ongoing rate increases from the City of Chicago. The fixed customer charge was last increased in Jan. 1, 1999.
What is the new price that I will see on my bill?
The newly adopted ordinance will bring the overall water and sewer rate to $10.76 per 1,000 gallons of usage, up from $9.52 in 2014. In addition, the fixed monthly service charge will be applied to all accounts, typically in the range of $5 to $15 depending on type of account. According to the ordinance, next year’s increase is the first in a series of five-year rate adjustments beginning in 2015 and ending in 2019. These increases are designed to keep a positive balance in the water and sewer fund and allow for much-needed capital improvements to Oak Park’s water and sewer infrastructure.
Why should we have extra money in the water and sewer fund?
It’s always a little odd to see collected fees sitting unused in a service fund. Water usage varies from month to month – you might even call it a liquid asset, no pun intended. Keeping a healthy, positive balance in the fund covers fluctuating monthly cash flow and allows the Village to pay for unexpected expenditures (such as repair of a major water main) that might crop up in a given year. The fund was projected to be about $2.13 million at the end of 2014, and if the new rates weren’t implemented, it would have been completely exhausted by the end of 2015.
What can I do to keep my water bill as low as possible?
A typical household can use as much as 400 gallons of water per day. Follow these simple tips to help conserve water.
- Turn off the water while brushing teeth or using the bathroom sink. Most water waste happens in the bathroom.
- Replace your toilet with a new, low-flow model. Most new models use about 1.5 gallons per flush – compared to as many as 8 gallons per flush for older toilets. You may qualify for a rebate from the Village to replace your old water-hogging toilet.
- Try a low-flow showerhead. New showerheads use about half as much water as older models, while still providing a comfortable stream of water in the shower.
- Water your garden in the morning or evening, not during the day.
- Install a rain barrel (or two!) to collect rainwater that can be used for irrigation in the backyard.
- Use the “quick wash” option on your dishwasher – your dishes will still get clean, but you’ll use less water.
- Front-loading washing machines use about half as much water as top-loading washing machines. After the toilet, the clothes washer is the second-largest water user in the typical home.