At their August 17 meeting, City Council approved legislation to implement a water and sewer utility surcharge to create a dedicated revenue source for major water main and sewer system replacement and improvement projects. See the FAQ list below for a breakdown of what the surcharge is, who it would impact and how it would help the City to start the process of upgrading the community's 50+year old water and sanitary system.
Process to Date
At the May 11 City Council Committee Meetings, staff presented the findings of a Water and Sewer Utility Surcharge Analysis. The analysis provided background information on the current state of the City's underground infrastructure (water and sewer systems), as well as a recommendation to implement a water and sewer utility surcharge. More information on the analysis is available below.
At the June 15 City Council Voting Meeting, staff summarized community questions and provided answers to date. Draft legislation was then introduced at the July 13 City Council Committee Meeting, scheduled for three readings and potential consideration on August 17. A Town Hall was then hosted on July 29 to help answer community member questions about the proposal. City Council approved the draft legislation, with an amendment to stretch out the rate increase over two years, at their August 17 City Council meeting.
The surcharge will be implemented over a two-year period, with half of the surcharge starting July 1, 2022 ($3.76/month for 5/8 meters), and the full surcharge ($7.52/month for 5/8 meters starting July 1, 2023. The surcharge will be added to all City of Columbus residential/commercial customer bills automatically.
June 15 Presentation Materials
May 11 Presentation Materials
Water and Sewer Utility Surcharge FAQ
- What is a water and sewer utility surcharge?
- A surcharge is an added fee paid by residential and commercial water/sewer customers directly to City of Columbus, with fees remitted back to the City. To be adopted and implemented from a legal perspective, the surcharge must be designed to fund necessary infrastructure improvement projects.
- How would the surcharge impact City of Columbus water and sewer customers with homes and businesses in Whitehall?
- As proposed, water and sewer customers would see a monthly fee added to their water and sewer utility bills. For most residential customers, this fee would be $7.52 a month (based on a 5/8 meter size). The fee would then increase for multi-family homes and business based on the size of their meter. With this system, everyone in Whitehall (homeowners, renters and businesses) pays an equal share of the surcharge based on their meter size.
- Why is the City proposing a surcharge?
- To support water main and sewer system improvement and replacement projects that have historically been underfunded. The surcharge would create a dedicated funding source to make these improvements, without forcing other infrastructure (streets, bridges, etc.) to go unimproved.
- What if we continue to defer the proposed water and sewer system improvements?
- The City is now at a critical point with our underground infrastructure, which ranges in age from 50 to 70 years. If deferred, residents and businesses can expect to see increased water main breaks and service disruptions. Over time, if left unimproved, the water system has the potential to become unsafe and could cause the City of Whitehall to come into a contractual conflict with the City of Columbus Division of Water, which requires the City of Whitehall to make improvements to the water system to ensure it is serviceable.
- What would the surcharge specifically fund?
- The City has worked with professional engineers to design our first-ever 5-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for water main, sewer and roadway improvement projects. The surcharges would allow for over $10 million in water main and over $3 million in sewer system improvement and replacement projects in the first five years alone. The selected projects in the CIP (specific water main and sewer system segments) are based on multiple data points, as well as future inspections (also funded by the surcharge).
- When residents passed the income tax increase in 2011, a portion of the increased revenue was allocated to sanitary sewer improvements. What has been done with that funding?
- The income tax increase revenue continues to fund the 15-year Ohio EPA approved inflow and infiltration reduction program that the City is in the midst of implementing. As proposed, the sewer portion of the surcharge would fund inspections, improvements and replacements above and beyond this program.