The City of Las Vegas is considering a proposal to increase sewer service charges.
The plan calls for an annual increase of 4% over the next decade, on top of the annual increase in the consumption index already in place, according to the ordinance which is not yet subject to a vote by the city council. .
If the board approves the order, it would translate to $19 more in 2023, bringing the current fee from $270 to $289.
The influx of funds, proposed to meet development growth demands, would cover costs the city incurs to maintain and upgrade sewage treatment systems and fund expansion projects, Mike Janssen, executive director of the city infrastructure, at a meeting of the recommending committee.
Due to a tight supply chain, he added, the costs of key chemicals used to treat wastewater are also expected to rise.
“We are sometimes seen as some kind of unknown public service, but at the end of the day, it’s an extremely important public service that we serve for the needs of our community,” he said.
The increase proposal came after a rate study the city typically commissions every ten years, Janssen said.
The rate hike discussion was originally scheduled for early 2021 but was put on hold due to the pandemic, Janssen said.
New tariffs would also apply to bottlers, dairies, restaurants and laundries, according to the proposal. Sewer connection fees would also increase, bringing this cost to $2,551 in 2023.
Inflation costs aside, the city hasn’t raised fees since 2005, and customers saw no increases from 2010 to 2012, following the Great Recession, Janssen said.
Janssen warned that not raising rates would result in budget shortfalls for capital improvement projects. He noted that the last time the city came close to being unable to meet the demands for growth, in 2004 and 2005, rates increased significantly.
But even with the proposed increase, sewer fees would still be lower than the national average and cheaper than North Las Vegas and Henderson, where customers pay $450 and $316 a year, Janssen said. Only Clark County — with an annual fee of $246 — pays less, and Reno homeowners pay significantly more at $603 a year, he said.
It was unclear whether the ordinance had the necessary council votes to pass. Citing an unstable economy, Councilor Michele Fiore, a member of the recommending committee, said she was opposed to moving forward with the proposal until at least next year.
“Hopefully we’ll stabilize around Christmas,” she said. “And I think that would be a much better conversation in January 2023. Today I could never support a rate increase – I understand the need for that – but I can’t support a rate increase until that we get our economy stable.”
If the ordinance passes, it will be reviewed in five years, and costs may be offset if applications for federal grants are approved or there is a “significant slowdown” in development, said Janssen.
Fiore and Councilman Brian Knudsen voted Monday to forward the ordinance to council without making recommendations.
The item is on Wednesday’s council agenda as part of bills likely to be passed for a later meeting, but is not up for discussion or possible action unless council members decide to delete it or drop it.