A little more than a year after raising water rates, Winnebago City Council is proposing a small hike.
“What’s going on? I guess I just don’t understand,” says Councilman Calvin Howard. “We’ll need stadium seating at next month’s meeting.”
Howard’s comments were made during Wednesday night’s council meeting during a lengthy discussion over whether to increase the cost per thousand gallons of water from $5 to $7.
City Administrator Judi Hynes has been working on the 2023 budget and one area requiring special attention is the Water Fund, which has a negative balance of $258,000.
“We have to plan for the significant increase in chemical costs and the needed maintenance on one of the wells which is quite expensive,” she says. “We needed to increase to what next year’s fuel, electric and gas expenses will be. They have all gone up for us as well.”
Councilman Paul Eisenmenger says part of the problem is that for many, many years water rates have not been enough to cover costs.
“We weren’t putting money away for improvements. We don’t have the money to pay for it because past councils refused to raise rates,” he says.
The proposed increase will mean that the average water user of 2,500 gallons and 3,500 gallons will pay an extra $5 and $7 a month.
Hynes says in calculating the new rate she relied on the Minnesota Rural Water Association’s recommendation to determine how many gallons of water the city bills annually, estimated at 27 million by 640 accounts.
Howard says the city’s new rate will be comparable to Blue Earth’s, which is slightly more than $7.
When he asked if other cities were experiencing losses in their water fund, Hynes says that Truman had a loss of $105,000 last year.
Mayor Scott Robertson says the city was hit with unexpected high maintenance costs for the water plant, such as filters costing thousands of dollars.
“We really don’t have another option. What’s the alternative if we don’t do it?” says Robertson.
Council members unanimously approved Howard’s motion, seconded by Council member Jean Anderson, to hold a public hearing on the proposed rate increase at the Dec. 13 council meeting following the truth in taxation hearing scheduled to begin 6 p.m.