It's probably no coincidence that Belleville waited until after it agreed to extend a 1/4-cent sales tax to begin the discussion of sewer rate increases. If the sewer rate discussion had come first, residents might have wanted a sales tax rollback.
The city has three proposals on the sewer rate increases, none of them good news for ratepayers. In all cases, the current average rate of $27.20 a month would double in about 10 years. That potentially means an extra $326 on average on all Belleville residents' bills annually.
City leaders say that a rate increase is unavoidable because the U.S. EPA has mandated upgrades to the city's sewer systems that are now estimated to cost $127 million. What definitely is avoidable, however, is a proposal to raise rates high enough to not only cover the current work but to build up the city's reserves for future projects.
Building up the city's reserves would mean an even greater depletion of ratepayers' reserves. In these difficult economic times, it would be irresponsible for Belleville to raise rates any more than is absolutely necessary.