City says inflation to blame for DeKalb water bill hikes

New water rate increase means average homeowner will pay about $16 more on bills sent out starting July 1

DeKALB – DeKalb residents should expect a 3.3% increase in their July water bills after City Council action this week prompted by what officials said was inflation.

City staff said Monday the increase is meant to offset expected increases in commodity, shipping and labor costs to the city’s water fund budget. The budget also helps pay for water infrastructure improvements, including water main replacement, water tower painting, well maintenance, meter replacements, vehicle and equipment purchases, lead service line replacements, and water extension to new developments, documents show.

City Manager Bill Nicklas said staff recommended a lower water cost increase this year compared to the prior.

In 2023, the council raised its water bill rate by 3.5%.

“The reason is our costs go up, also, as you know very well,” Nicklas said.

Staff said revenue from residents’ water bills goes to pay for operating and capital expenses from water sales and water service fees.

Under the approved water rate increase, the financial impact to a water bill customer who has a ¾-inch meter in their home would pay an additional $16.23 per year, city documents show. The council was provided three different scenarios for potential consideration, including those with no water rate increase and with water rate increases of 1.1% and 2.2%, city documents show.

The new rate went into effect retroactively April 1, and will be seen first on bills issued on the July 1 billing cycle, city documents show.

First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Zasada supported the rate increase because she said she believes a gradual increase is better than larger increases down the road.

“I think it’s important for us to keep pace with the cost of water,” Zasada said. “I think it’s important that we just keep going with this and make sure that we don’t stick people with a double fee in a couple years.”

Third Ward Alderman Tracy Smith said impact to people’s water bills also rests in the hands of residents.

“This is something that residents can control,” Smith said. “Water usage is in our control. So bills can be reduced based on control of the water off the yard.”

Nicklas lauded the city’s water division for the recent accolade bestowed upon it, saying this goes to show what investment has done for the city’s water supplies over time.

The city’s water division in January 2024 won the Illinois Sectional American Water Works Association District 1 Water Taste Test Competition, according to a news release from the city.

“It wasn’t just a good day for testing,” Nicklas said. “This takes years to happen and a lot of careful tending – all the monthly and bimonthly reports that go to the [Environmental Protection Agency.] All the testing, all the proper bring back on the line – that all affects the taste, the color and the appearance of the water that we drink. I’m very proud of what they do. They deserve all the accolades that they get for this.”

Second Ward Alderwoman Barb Larson echoed Nicklas’ sentiments, giving kudos to the city’s water division.

“That good water doesn’t come cheap,” Larson said. “Keep up the good work.”

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