Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

City to double water, sewer tap fees

System development charge to be added for new connections

August 23, 2001

It an attempt to raise revenue for future improvements, the De Soto City Council agreed last Thursday to increase water and sewer connection fees.

Mayor Dave Anderson proposed an increase in his campaign last spring. The issue surfaced again during the city council's 2001 budget discussions last month.

At last Thursday's council meeting, city engineer Mike Brungardt shared information with the council indicating De Soto's water and sewer connection rates are much cheaper than those in surrounding jurisdictions.

At Brungardt's suggestion, the council directed staff to develop an ordinance that would charge a system development fee for the water and sewer connections. The city engineer said the justification for the system development fee was simple: make development pay for itself.

The formula Brungardt developed was equally straightforward. System development fees would charge estimated usage rates for the capital costs of adding an equal amount of capacity.

A draft fee schedule Brungardt shared with the council would create system development fees for a standard single-family home of $815 for water and $1,050 for sewer. The charges will increase with the size of the water meter. The proposal would charge higher rates for non-residential uses.

De Soto currently has a $30 water connection fee and charges $1,500 for the 3/4-inch water meter standard in most homes. The fee increases to $2,000 for a one-inch line and $2,500 for a two-inch line.

By contrast, Gardner charges $1,800 for a 3/4-inch residential connection and adds another $300 meter fee. Residential meter fees increase as size increase ($800 for a one-inch meter and $1,750 or a 1 1/2-inch meter).

Gardner, unlike De Soto, has a different rate schedule for non-residential water taps. Meter fees are identical to residential, but Gardner adds system connection fees, which increases from $300 for a 3/4-inch line to $5,616 for a two-inch connection.

Brungardt's figures show nearby rural water districts have even more aggressive tap fees. Johnson County Rural Water District No. 1 charges $20,380 for a two-inch connection, while the same tap would cost nearly $57,000 in Johnson County Rural Water District No. 6.

De Soto currently charges $600 for new sewer taps, regardless of size, while Gardner charges $2,230 for single-resident homes. Gardner adds a system development charge for non-residential uses that can increase tap fees to $6,965 for a two-inch water meter (it is assumed sewer usage increased with increased water use).

Revenue from the system development fees will be dedicated to capital improvement accounts in each department. Connection fees would continue to supplement the departments' operating budgets.

The draft fee schedule would place De Soto's total sewer and water connection fee schedule between those of Eudora and Gardner, $3,100 and $4,330 for a single-family respectively. That was a comfortable place for city council members.

"This is in line with what I was thinking," council member John Taylor said.

Only council member Emil Urbanek voiced reservations, noting the suggested rate increase would double the cost of connecting residential homes. He wondered if that was the council's intentions.

"Yes," council member Brad Seaman replied. "We're going to make them pay for it instead of us."

Brungardt will bring a refined system development fee schedule for the council's consideration at its Sept. 6 meeting.

Anderson suggested the council had more work to do to assure the water department "carried its own freight."

The water department won't raise nearly enough revenue to cover its $750,000 operating budget next year, despite a 10 percent increase in user rates. As a result, the city transfers funds into the department at the expense of streets and other needs, the mayor said.

The problem, council member Tim Maniez said, was that the city provides cheaper user rates for high volume water users. In the early 1990s a consultant suggested the council phase in rate adjustments that would eliminate the practice.

"We did that the first time around, but we didn't stick with it," he said.

City Administrator Gerald Cooper said Friday the city would have to increase its rates to cover the water department's costs. But, he said by increasing the rates of large users, the city could leave most residential rates unchanged.

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