Water, sewer and stormwater service rates are set to rise come the new year.The Manhattan City Commission unanimously approved the increases at their Tuesday meeting.

City staff recommended the increases to rates for water and wastewater services in order to keep pace with “community growth and to ensure adequate funding of various projects for the operation, maintenance, and capital improvements to the City’s public water supply, distribution systems and sanitary sewer collection treatment systems.” The yearly increases are based on a cost of service study performed in 2015.

Increases to stormwater services are also to keep up with rising costs, but to ensure the city has enough revenue for “projects and goals identified in current and future Capital Improvement Project (CIP)
budgets” as well. The rates are also undergoing a leveling process that is evening out rates for residential and commercial consumers. This leveling was initiated as city staff found that rates decreased for bigger users rather than increased, requiring adjustment in order to maintain equity for all residents and property owners.

Commissioner Wynn Butler talked about the importance of stormwater system improvements for which the increased rates will collect revenue.
“We continually have problems when we get the large rains and the only way that’s ever going to get repaired is if we can do those CIP projects — which have to be funded this way,” said Butler.
Water and sewer rates are set to rise 5 percent in 2019. The average residential consumer will see a monthly increase of $1.28 for water and $1.71 for sewer, while the average business consumer will see a monthly increase of $2.82 for water and $3.87 for sewer.
Stormwater rates are based around equivalent residential units (ERU), or the amount of land on your property that is impervious and water cannot absorb into the ground. An ERU is 3,625 square feet of impervious area and rates per unit are set to rise in 2019 from $5.34 to $5.82 for residential consumers and from $3.96 to $4.65 for business consumers.
Randy DeWitt, Manhattan Assistant Director of Public Works/Water and Wastewater, said that while the water fund is meeting projections, the sewer fund is $250,000 less than expected for 2018. He said despite that, he recommends sticking to the current rate increase structure for the time being and possibly adjusting rates further at a later date. DeWitt also said they can mitigate some of that by putting of some projects and non-vital maintenance works for a later time.
Mayor Mike Dodson said he approves of the increases, especially as Manhattan’s rates for these services still fall well below many other Kansas cities. He also said to be careful about putting off maintenance for too long.
“If something is not maintained, it’s going to cost more in the future,” Dodson said.
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi also approved of the increases, but said the city has to make sure they do their part keeping citizens informed of rate changes. Earlier in the meeting, a member in the public came forward and said she had been surprised by the increases and was unaware there was a multi-year rate increase structure in place.
“Anytime we make some increases, let’s try to get in front of it as far as informing the community,” Reddi said. “Whether social media or if they’re still getting their snail mail.”

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