Increase in Cape utilities planned for July

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cape Girardeau residents can expect to pay more for trash, sewer and water service starting July 1.

The city wants to raise the water fee by 2.5 percent, sewer fee by 3 percent and trash fee by 4 percent.

Also proposed is a $2 per ton rate increase that customers dropping off trash at the transfer station would pay. The current dumping charge at the transfer station is $35.61 a ton.

City officials said the proposed rate increases would generate an estimated $305,000 in added revenue to help pay the cost of trash, sewer and water services.

The council, under the city charter, can raise user fees by as much as 5 percent without voter approval.

The average residential utility bill for sewer, water and trash combined is expected to increase to $44.30 a month, a 3.13 percent increase, city finance director John Richbourg said.

Commercial customers would see their water and sewer fees combined climb by 2.68 percent to $124.33 a month, he said. The city doesn't provide commercial trash service.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said the council must raise utility fees for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to cover increased costs.

Increasing the water service rate would generate an additional $123,438, city finance director John Richbourg said.

The sewer fee increase would bring in an added $75,225, he said.

The trash fee increase would generate $70,400. The increase in the transfer station fee would generate another $36,000, Richbourg estimated.

Even then, the city still stands to lose an estimated $54,328 on its trash service in the coming fiscal year, Richbourg said.

The city will dip into its solid waste fund balance to cover the costs. That will still leave an estimated fund balance of more than $465,000 by the end of the next fiscal year, which is June 30, 2006, Richbourg said.

Council members at their recent retreat discussed the possibility of revising the city charter to remove the 5 percent cap on increasing user fees without voter approval.

It would take voter approval to make any changes to the city charter.

Knudtson said he'd like to see the cap removed for some user fees such as park fees. But he opposes eliminating the cap on fee increases for essential city services such as water, sewer and trash.

"I do believe there is a place for a cap," he said. "People on fixed income need to know that the city council won't arbitrarily raise their monthly fees."

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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