Over the past few weeks, a number of residents have asked about their water and sewer bills. Most of the questions that I have answered are from residents asking why their bills are higher than normal.
There are many misperceptions and misinformation going around on social media, so I wanted to help clear a few things up. The short answer is that nothing has changed in water and sewer rates. Here are some of the comments I have heard recently about our rates.
Rate Structure: Some of the customers I talked to did not understand why the charge for their sewer service is higher than the charge for their water service. The answer to that is really very simple: it costs more for the city to pump and treat sewage, and make it safe for the environment, than it costs to simply deliver clean water. Therefore, we must charge more for sewer than we do for water.
Also, there used to be two line items on your billing statements for sewer use. In order to simplify the bills and make them easier to understand for our customers, we combined these line items, last October. While this action may have made your bill look a little different, it had no effect on the amount charged.
Water Rate Freeze: Another misperception that was being shared is that utility bills are higher due to a rate increase. This is not the case. The City Council voted on Sept. 18, 2017 to freeze the water and sewer rates for one year. This action saved O’Fallon’s water and sewer customers overall approximately $500,000. Since the freeze has been in effect, the city has been studying future needs of the utility system, and their impact on future rates and reserves.
Billing Period: Another reason why the most recent bill may be higher is because the billing period was for 33 days, as opposed to the normal 30 days. These three extra days in the billing period may cause some to have higher usage amounts than normal.
Holiday Usage: In addition to this billing period being longer than normal, it also occurred during a period of higher usage. The city bills for water and sewer after they have been used. As such, the bills mailed in February were for usage from mid-December through mid-January, so it included the Christmas holiday. If you had college kids home from school, or family members over for dinner, like me, this equates to more usage through hand-washing, showering, laundry, and bathroom trips. All of these things contribute to a higher water usage and a higher water and sewer bill.
The city of O’Fallon owns and operates its own municipal water and sewer system. A municipal utility system like ours dictates how we structure rates, improvements, and growth. The water and sewer systems are operated completely through rates and no taxes are used. The city’s goal is to provide clean, safe utility services to our residents and customers, and to charge just enough to break even. We are able to do all of this at a value to our residents and customers. In fact, the city of O’Fallon charges lower rates than many of our neighboring communities and water providers.
Every water and sewer customer’s situation is different. If you’re ever concerned or have questions about your bill, please call the city of O’Fallon’s Utility Billing Department at 618-624-4500, ext. 1. Our staff is very knowledgeable and always here to help you understand your bill and diagnose issues you may have at your residence or business.
As residents of O’Fallon, you should always be able to reach out to your elected officials and ask questions about what is happening in O’Fallon. Having open communications is important to me and something I care very deeply about. Thank you for reading, and please remember, my door is always open.