Water and sewer rates will go up 4.9% in the City of Howell to address current and future costs of the system based on recommendations from advisors.

The rate increase is less than originally projected last year of 5.5%, which is attributed to stronger cash reserves. The city focuses on three general areas to maintain a viable system that include a debt coverage ratio, minimum cash level reserves and operating income targets. By meeting those targets, the systems can generate sufficient revenues to fund current operations.

Staff and council are hopeful the rate increases should start to level out and held a thorough discussion on the issue. In approving the motion, Mayor Nick Proctor commented they don’t like the rate increases any more than taxpayers and there has to be a point where thing start to level off or fall more in line with lower cost of living increases. Council has taken the approach of steady increases in rates to lessen the pain on customers, instead of implementing a huge rate hike after multiple years of little or no increases. Staff says the current practice of limiting the variability in rate increases while still addressing the current and future costs of the system is an equitable program.

City Manager Shea Charles pointed out the increase is part of a three-year rate track just to maintain and invest in the system while providing a quality product. The rate determination also attempts to address the unpredictability of the future. Charles says they city will undertake a major rate analysis next year, and the approach has been to do so every three years and gauge where things are at. He anticipates residents and business should be able to see lower increases in the future, as they finally get to the point where the system has been re-calibrated to be sustainable. (JM)