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Wheaton City Council considers changes to water bills after study reveals projected shortfall

Following an outside consultant’s study of Wheaton’s water rates, the city is considering changes to the amount residents pay for water, as well as the way they are charged.

The Wheaton City Council heard a first reading of the city’s proposed Water Rate Change Ordinance at its regular meeting Nov. 12. The Council will vote on the ordinance at its Nov. 19 meeting.

The water rate study showed that Wheaton’s current water rate will not generate enough revenue to cover the costs of providing water service. The study recommended the city increase the amount it charges customers and change the way monthly water bills are calculated, according to a city news release.

The City of Chicago and DuPage Water Commission will increase the amount Wheaton pays for Lake Michigan water by 20 percent in 2013, 18 percent in 2014 and 17 percent in 2015, which is the main reason behind the changes to Wheaton’s water billing system.

“It’s certainly one of the — if not the — driving factor in the rate increases, but associated with that is our need to establish a more reliable source of revenue due to the capital projects that are needed for the water system,” City Manager Donald B. Rose said.

Wheaton’s water system is entirely supported by customer fees. More than half of water customer revenue pays for the cost of purchasing water from the City of Chicago and DuPage Water Commission, while the remaining amount pays to operate and maintain water lines and equipment.

“All the revenues that are generated by the sale of water sold go into the water fund, used solely for the operation and maintenance of that water system,” Rose said. “There aren’t other sources of revenue, nor do we use water revenues to fund other things. This is all water-related.”

The water rate study recommended the city increase revenue generated by water customer bills by 30 percent on Jan. 1, 2013, 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2014, and 20 percent on Jan. 1, 2015.

In order to generate the necessary increases, Wheaton will add a fixed service fee to customers’ water bills and increase the rate for water usage.

The service fee will be a flat, monthly charge based on the size of each customer’s water meter. This fixed charge will provide revenue stability, Rose said.

Parts of Wheaton’s water system are more than 60 years old. Over the next five years, the city plans to invest $8 million for capital improvements to the water system, including:

• $4.4 million in water main replacements • $1.6 million in water tower maintenance • $1.3 million in water meter replacements • $400,000 for a computerized control system.

If passed, the proposed changes would begin with the January 2013 water bills.

Even with the changes, the amount Wheaton residents pay for water will be in line with what residents in other towns pay, Director of Finance Bob Lehnhardt said.

For additional information, please visit the City of Wheaton’s website at www.wheaton.il.us.

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