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.
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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