Joliet residents will pay more for water and sewer services starting in November.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a combined 6.5% increase in water and sewer rates, which city officials say will still leave Joliet residents paying less than those in most neighboring towns.
The increase amounts to $5 on the average monthly bill, according to city officials. The average monthly bill would go from $80 to $85.
But that’s too much, said three people who urged the council to reject the rate increase before it voted.
“We need to exhaust all possible options,” said Felix Ortiz, who emphasized that people already face rising prices for groceries and gasoline. “We suggest you find alternatives to pay for this.”
One alternative suggested by Suzanna Ibarra, co-chair of Will County Progressives, is to charge more to big corporations.
“Have all the options been explored?” Ibarra asked.
The city actually is exploring higher rates for higher users of waters, but is implementing a previously planned increase to pay for rising costs while doing an analysis on financial impact of the Lake Michigan water project, officials said.
Joliet already sets higher rates for business customers.
“We currently have our rates structured where commercial and industrial customers do pay more,” city Utilities Director Allison Swisher told the council..
Swisher said residential customers in single-family homes get a 10% discount on rates and seniors in single-family homes get a 38% discount.
Joliet has increased rates for several years as have most communities across the United States due to infrastructure and regulation costs, according to a consultant’s report to the city. Until recent years, Joliet rates increases have lagged behind the national average of 5%, according to the report from Burns & McDonnell.
The increases in part pay for the Lake Michigan water project, which the city plans to complete by 2030. The deadline is based on forecasts that deep wells now used by Joliet no longer meet peak water demand by then.
“We’re trying to make sure people have water in 2030, 2040 and 2050,” Councilman Larry Hug said.
The council vote was 7-1 for the rate increase.
Cesar Guerrero, the lone no vote, said he could not fault the council for supporting the hike but was voting no because of a position he took on water rates when elected in 2021.
Guerrero has advocated for assistance to low-income residents facing future rate hikes, and city officials say they are working on it.
“I don’t think there’s going to one simple solution to this,” Guerrero said.