Barring unforeseen circumstances, Hillsboro City Council is on the verge of repealing legislation passed several years ago that mandated annual increases in water and sewer bills.
As reported this week by The Times-Gazette, the move comes after two straight years of moratoriums on the rate hikes that were first recommended by the Hastings administration in 2014. Rebecca Wilkin’s Utilities Committee, including members Bill Alexander and Tracy Aranyos, studied the issue and ultimately recommended that the increases be permanently abandoned.
An ordinance to repeal the increases is on the agenda for council when it meets in regular session Monday evening. At scheduled increases of 3.5 percent each year, water and sewer bills would be more than 10 percent higher today if the moratoriums had not been enacted beginning in 2014.
The currently-scheduled annual rate increases began when city council, in 2008, approved rate hikes to be triggered each September through 2016. The increases were part of a schedule coordinated by the Regional Community Assistance Program (RCAP) to make sure the city could meet the obligations of loans connected to the new water treatment plant.
The Hastings administration recommended the first moratorium on the scheduled hikes after it learned in 2013 of additional state funding that had been awarded in 2008 and 2009 but somehow had not been collected. In 2014, council unanimously agreed to a year-long moratorium on rate increases after the Utilities Committee had also studied the issue.
Council approved another moratorium in 2015, which lasted until September of last year. Since then, a series of 30-day moratoriums were approved, meaning that Hillsboro residents were spared the final two years of the rate hikes put in place in 2008.
Even though the schedule of hikes was expiring at the end of 2016, the repeal legislation is designed to ward off any confusion or claim that the moratoriums that were passed simply delayed the increases and that they could still be collected in 2017 and 2018 once the moratoriums expired. This legislation on the docket for Monday will ensure that the increases are permanently killed, and any future increases would require a new act of council.
We applaud the Hastings administration and Rebecca Wilkin’s Utilities Committee for recommending savings for Hillsboro residents by taking the responsible action of ending the incremental increases of city water and sewer bills when additional funding made the increases unnecessary. It was a commendable action to take in an age when local governments find it difficult to turn down revenue in any form.