UPDATE: Chesapeake City Council voted in favor of a 5 percent increase for utilities. The hike goes into effect in July.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – City council will decide on a budget Tuesday that is expected to include a hike for water and sewer rates.
The proposed hikes will see customers pay 4.9% more on their bills starting in July, said David Jurgens, director of public utilities.
Councilman Roland Davis is worried that the hikes, about $5 for a $100 utility bill, will continue every year. Jurgens said there is no proposal for any rate increase beyond what the council already approved three years ago.
“When I first started out, it was like $15 every two months,” said resident Lynn Hickey, who moved into his home in the 70s. He now spends about $80 every two months on his utility bill, which will increase by a few dollars, once the rate increase kicks in.
Jurgens said council members approved five annual rate increases in 2013 and the fourth increase begins this year.
“I wasn’t on council in 2013, so I’ve opposed it both years I’ve been on council. I don’t think anyone gets used to their bill increasing every year by 5 percent. I think that this is just not a good way to do business. The citizens are entrusting you with their monies that make sure they’re used to improve the quality of life,” Davis said.
Davis planned to call for an amendment at Tuesday’s council meeting to take the increase out of the budget.
Jurgens said the rate increases pay for aging sewer systems, work required by the Department of Environmental Quality and operational costs.
Davis thinks the city should instead pull from the $88 million in the public utilities fund.
“There’s a need to pay for those things, but the need has got to be justified by the amount of money you already have in the bank. They have substantial funds sitting there that are not being utilized,” he said.
According to Jurgens, about $26-27 million of those funds are for an emergency cash reserve set aside for events like hurricanes. The rest is already allocated for capital improvement projects, he said.