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Mayor Plans to Offset Water Rate Hike by Dropping Other Charges

Mayor David Gonzalez will officially present the plan at the Dec. 17 city council meeting.

Chicago Heights residents will soon see their water rates more than double, going from $2.47 per unit to $5.50 per unit.

The big jump comes as the result of the city's supplier, Hammond, Ind., quadrupling the rate Chicago Heights must pay for processed Lake Michigan water.

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In order to counteract the massive increase, Mayor David Gonzalez said he'll be proposing, at the Dec. 17 city council meeting, to remove the oft-questioned community service fee from Heights residents' water bills.

"I’m very comfortable that we’re not just going to pass this huge increase and say 'deal with it,'" Gonzalez said in a phone interview.

The $38.24 fee is normally added to every water bill, along with charges for sewer maintenance and the Thorn Creek Basin, as well as a service fee.

Watch: Minutes with the Mayor: All Those Charges on Your Water Bill

Gonzalez sent Patch examples of how removing the community service fee would offset the increased water rate. In one example, the unnamed Heights resident's water bill is just under $120 at the current water rate. The bill jumps to just under $165 at the new rate. After the removal of the community service fee, the bill drops back down to about $126.

The sample bill was based on the person using 15 units of water. Gonzalez said non-seniors using only 10 units of water will actually see their water bill decreased if the community service charge is removed. 

Seniors, who currently pay a discounted community service fee, would see a similar change in their bill, according to Gonzalez's example.

But what about the money generated from the community service fee, which brings in about $1.6 million a year?

"We would have to start looking for revenue sources to make up for that $1.6 million," Gonzalez said. "We don’t want to put it on the property tax bill. It’s going to make us go into our 2013 budget asking, 'How do we start reducing expenditures and increasing revenue?'"

Gonzalez said the city can also make up the money in the water department, mainly by wasting less water. The city has already hired companies to perform leak detection services.

"We have more than 1 million gallons per day we can’t account for just because of leakage," Gonzalez said. "If we find out where we’re losing water, we can run the water more effectively and save money."

Gonzalez will present the plan at the Monday city council meeting, with a presentation that will show examples of several different water bills. 

Stay informed about what's going on in Chicago Heights:

chgo hts insider December 13, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Mayor wants to be a hero by eliminating this CSF charge because he failed in his water negotiations with Hammond!!! The residents will get totally screwed for his failures so he proposes to remove the fee to make himself look good. That's the only reason, personal gain. However, he admits they must replace the lost money with another revenue source. What? Does he think we are stupid idiots? Look like a hero to remove a fee but then stick it to us another way so we pay the same and the city doesn't loose the money. Ladies & gentleman, this is what you call the old bait and switch. An old political trick. Don't let this goof Gonzales get away with it. He's trying to protect HIMSELF politically and we get screwed for his failures. Speak out!!
Terry Harding December 13, 2012 at 01:28 PM
So lets keep the fee and pay Hammond more for water so we have to pay more ? Chgo Insider is an idiot . My Akderman needs to get rid of this stupid community service fee .
Michael Wright December 13, 2012 at 05:39 PM
To chgo hts insider: Do you really believe this mayor wants to be a hero? He is smart and being fiscally responsible. He didn't fail in his water negotiations. Let us be realistic: after 30 years, the rate is going to increase, no matter who the mayors of Hammond, IN and Chicago Heights, IL are. Anyone who thinks otherwise is truly ignorant of the facts (and I use the word ignorant as it is defined as an adjective: Lacking knowledge or awareness, in general). It is not a matter of failure or success. NOTHING stays the same after 30 years. The bigger picture is the mayor of Hammond, IN thinks he can set the new water rate, when in fact, the original contract stipulates the rate is to be set by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Just how much the IURC will increase the new rate is to be determined at another hearing in early January (I believe this was reported in a previous Patch article). As for the City of Chicago Heights and its infamous community service fee: it was created by a past mayor and administration to offset revenue loss. It was created and can be removed. Nothing in life is permanent, be it water rates, billing line items or current sitting mayors. Someone has to take a stand for common sense and Mayor Gonzalez happens to be the elected official at this time and place in the history of Chicago Heights' Lake Michigan water renewal contract. He is right to suggest his council find new ways to offset this increase. Hero? How about smart.
sandra December 13, 2012 at 10:21 PM
No sewer charge for seniors in the City of Chicago. How about Chicago Heights?? And $120 every six months for water in Chicago???????? With a family of four adults????????? Something is amiss here.
sandra December 13, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Chicago Heights residents will no doubt have to consume less water. Walgreens look out.... sales of deodorants will escalate!!! Summer flowers will be a thing of the past, and lawns will look parched if not enough rain. Laundry will set out in the rain for cleaning..... clotheslines will be in vogue... not to dry the clothes but to wash them! And the purchase of paper plates will soar!!! Costs too much to wash dishes. Just planning ahead. And bottled water is very cheap.... even tho it produces lots of environmental problems.... but here I come.
Winston Wolf December 14, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Thank you, Mayor Gonzalez. Truly a wise and compassionate decision.
JayZ December 14, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Yea I say this was the right thing to do too but now he has to find the $ somewhere else. But he is smart so we are good.
NoOne Needs to Know December 17, 2012 at 09:27 PM
He is proposing another property tax increase at tonight's meeting. Which, I am sure, like last year, is only a matter of all but one alderman voting "yes". Business as usual.
Robert T December 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Yes , The dumb alderman that wants to give more tax dollars to the Library when they are stockpiling cash on our back . What an idiot . Good job Treasurer Dee .
Annonymous December 18, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Well, I think Chris and the Patch should get the credit for the end of the CS fee. After all this fee disappears pretty shortly after Chris starts asking for a reasonable explanation. BTW, nobody seems to have noticed that there's a million dollars a year of water leaking out of the system-- that is what a million gallon a day translates into at the new water rate. My point is that that kind of "shrinkage" should be unacceptable but only gets noticed because the pols are taking heat on the new rate. And that that kind of waste permeates CH government at all levels. Same story at the library. Why is the library budget $1million a year-- because at some point in the past they spent that much. The library board has done a good job of controlling costs and have brought the actual expenditures down. For that they should be congratulated. That they continue to build reserves at the rate of 20% of their allocation is unreasonable-- that big reserve will just encourage others in city government to snatch it away in some way or another. But it is important to praise the board while bringing the allocation into alignment with the expenditures. Otherwise this will be seen as a punishment for doing a good job. To talk about increased maintenance on an "aging" building which is only 40 years old is a bit disingenuous. Maintenance is a concern but if its really going to cost an additional quarter million to maintain that building we should think about building another one.

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