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Aldermen approve water, sewer hikes

Evanston residents will see a 10 percent increase in water rates next year along with a property tax hike to refinance sewer system debt as a result of a City Council vote this week.

Utilities Director Dave Stoneback explains the water and sewer proposals.

The aldermen voted unanimously to approve the water rate increase to fund capital improvement projects at the water plant and the replacement of aging water mains in the city.

The report from city staff calls for additional water rate increases of 5 percent in 2012 and 3 percent in 2013.

The city estimates next year’s water rate increase will cost the average customer about $15.

City officials say that among 17 nearby communities checked, Evanston currently has the second lowest water rate. It will move up to third lowest with the latest increase.

The aldermen also voted to refinance some sewer fund debt as general obligation debt that will be added to property tax bills.

That will refinance about $17 million in debt payments due over the next four years and spread its repayment out over 20 years.

The move will add 2.7 percent to the city’s property tax bill by the time all the new bonds are issued or about 0.68 percent in each of the four years.

For a home with an equalized assessed valuation of $100,000, Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says the move will eventually add just under $38 to a city tax bill that now totals $1,400.

The sewer bonds were originally issued to pay for improvements over the past two decades that have dramatically reduced basement flooding problems in the city. Lyons says those bonds will start to be paid off over the next few years. He said that since the improvements are likely to last for a half century or more before needing replacement, it’s reasonable to refinance a portion of the debt with the new 20 year bonds, rather than impose a big spike in sewer rates now.

Evanston’s sewer rates are currently among the highest in the area. 

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