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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. 

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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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