Plain City Council eyeing utility rate increase


As Plain City Council reviews the 2020 budget, it is considering potential raises to the village’s water and sewer rates.
During a work session following Monday’s council meeting, Village Administrator Nathan Cahall said village staff members suggest a 5% rate increase starting in January.
He said the village hasn’t altered water and sewer rates in several years, but felt doing so would be beneficial to maintaining the upcoming budget.
“It’s always good to tweak around the edges instead of sitting on your rates for 10 to 15 years,” Cahall said.
If the rates are not increased in the near future, Cahall said they will eventually need to be raised dramatically, causing “sticker shock” for residents.
Cahall said the average Plain City residence of three to five people uses about 3,000 gallons of water each month. This equates to a monthly bill of about $47.
A 5% increase would bump monthly costs by approximately $2.75, or about $30 each year.
He said he felt the increase would be fair, given a comparison of neighboring rates.
The same homeowner would pay a little over $61 a month in Columbus, while the price would spike to about $95 in Marysville, according to Cahall. He offered Delaware and Westerville as areas that have nearly the same rates he proposed.
“In terms of who we would be emulating, we’d be closest to Westerville,” he said.
In order to alleviate opposition from residents, Cahall said the current surcharge could be decreased, aside from the rate increase.
If the rate were increased by 5%, he said the surcharge could be decreased by “at least $1 a month” without creating an adverse financial impact.
Mayor Darrin Lane said he wasn’t sure residents would be appeased by a surcharge decrease. He said the last time water and sewer rates increased, the surcharge was decreased to balance the costs, but residents were still unhappy.
Additionally, Cahall said the surcharge could only be decreased a certain amount because it is designated for debt repayment.
He said the surcharge is used as a “pledged revenue stream” toward the Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA), which the village accepted a loan from to expand the sewer plant in 2006.
The debt is due to OWDA in 2026, so the surcharge will essentially sunset then.
“The goal is to eventually get rid of the surcharge,” Cahall said. “Unfortunately, it is still necessary.”
Rather than a one-time increase, Cahall asked council if raising the rate incrementally would be more favorable.
Lane and council member John Rucker said they both felt more comfortable with spreading the increase over time.
Cahall said he hadn’t worked out the numbers yet, but felt it would be possible to consider a 2% increase each year for three years, coupled with a $0.50 surcharge decrease each of those years.
Regardless of which option is decided on, Cahall said he felt an increase should be imposed sooner rather than later.
“My goal is always to come to you all and say, ‘Here’s some preventative medicine,’ instead of, ‘Now we’re sick and in the E.R.’” he said.
Cahall said he will consider feasible options for council to discuss during upcoming meetings.

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