Elmhurst water price hike tough to swallow
The price increase Elmhurst residents are seeing on their water bills is no drop in the bucket.
Even though the DuPage Water Commission is giving the city a 2 percent break on its normal water cost, Elmhurst raised its residential rates by approximately 12 percent.
“Clearly this is a failure of planning," resident Jake Parrillo told DuPage Policy Journal. "Assuming that the costs are real, it can't be a surprise all of a sudden that they exist."
The decision to raise the price for water and sewer was approved by the Elmhurst Finance, Council Affairs and Administrative Services (FCAAS) Committee.
In the notice sent to residents, government officials made no mention of the reduced rate Elmhurst receives.
“It feels like empire building,” Parrillo said. “When you have guaranteed customers, you have the ability to do what you want, and the customer has no options. No business besides the government has guaranteed customers they don’t have to fight to keep.”
The Elmhurst Independent reported that rate increases went into effect in January, and an average four-person household now pays a monthly water bill of $113.68, compared with $100.96 in 2016. Over the next five years, the average price tag for most families could go as high as $170, it said.
As for the immediate future, the Capital Investment Recovery Charge (CIRC) consumers now pay, which was established to recover costs that do not fluctuate with water consumption, is expected to double.
“The increase makes no sense,” Parrillo said. “If they’re being charged less it’s only fair that those savings be passed off to the consumers.”
Messages left for Alderman Keith York, who oversees the FCAAS Committee, were not returned by press time. He previously told the Independent that the CIRC also provides critical revenue stability for the Municipal Utility Fund.
York also was reported as saying the rate is projected to decline over the next five years thanks to capital improvements and efficiency.
In the mailing to residents, Elmhurst Water Department officials attributed the price increase to factors such as operating and maintenance costs and capital improvements, water main and sanitary sewer costs, and a two-year water meter replacement project.
“There’s nowhere else you can go for your water,” Parrillo said. “And I know we here in Elmhurst aren’t the only ones that are being left feeling this way.”
Other towns have also been hit by a wave of water price hikes.
According to DNA Info Chicago, the city recently passed a 30 percent increase in its water and sewer tax aimed at helping keep its pension fund plan for city employees afloat.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel signaled that the hike would be phased in over five years, with the cost to the average home running $4.50 a month to start and climbing to as much as $19 a month by the time the plan is fully implemented.
Emanuel estimated that the plan will raise as much as $56 million next year for the Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund, which some estimates have suggested will otherwise be tapped out within a decade.
Editor's note: The original version of this story misquoted Elmhurst resident Jake Parrillo. This has been corrected.
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