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Aldermen to vote on utility rate hikes

Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote tonight on a 10 percent increase in water rates and a 2.7 percent increase in property taxes to pay for sewer services.

In 2008 a city consultant said water rates needed to be raised to cover operating, capital improvement and debt service costs — but until now no action has been taken on that recommendation. And, Utility Director Dave Stonebeck says, water usage has continued to decline, further reducing the system’s revenue.

City officials say that among 17 nearby communities checked, Evanston currently has the second lowest water rate. It would move up to third lowest if the water rate increase is approved.

The officials say the water rate increase would cost the average single-family homeowner about $15 a year.

Evanston has among the highest sewer rates in the area because of extensive capital improvement projects to reduce basement flooding over the past two decades.

The bonds used to finance those improvements are scheduled to be paid off starting in 2013, but until then the city would face a growing sewer fund deficit if some new revenue source isn’t found.

The proposed $17 million in new general obligation bonds to be issued over four years to cover a portion of the sewer debt would require payments of about $1.4 million a year which the city says would cost the owner of a property with an equalized assessed value of $100,000 about $38 a year.

The sewer ordinance would also proportionately raise rates for large non-profit users who are exempt from the property tax.

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