By Garrett Ammesmaki,
Your water bill is only going to get bigger.
That is one of the main takeaways from the City of Lennox’ first ever livestream Q&A session held July 13 on Facebook Live.
Though the questions varied widely throughout the evening, one of the biggest concerns was the continual increase residents are seeing in their water bill, and what there is to be done about it.
City Administrator Nate Vander Plaats dutifully answered questions from residents throughout the two-hour session. But, when it came to the water bill, he didn’t have much good news to share.
“I hate to say it, but (the water bill) is going to continue going up,” Vander Plaats said during the livestream.
As of January 1, 2023, households will see two new surcharges on water and sewage, which will mean a new monthly bill of roughly $94 for households that use 3,000 gallons of water and sewer per month.
The surcharges will be put into effect to pay off the Central Basin Four Project, and were approved by commissioners at the June 27 City Council meeting.
A more thorough breakdown of all surcharges can be found on the City of Lennox website.
While there is a light at the end of the tunnel for residents when it comes to their water bill, it’s not coming any time soon.
As the population of Lennox grows, the city will be able to shift to using sales tax revenue to help pay for infrastructure projects instead of surcharges, Vander Plaats said. And, recently, sales tax revenue (STR) has grown “in a major way” for the City of Lennox.
At the beginning of this year, the city budgeted for around $360,000 in STR, but is now expecting a return between $450,000 to $600,000.
That increase is thought to be caused by a relatively new state law that funnels taxes from online purchases into the local economy of where the purchases are made.
Unfortunately, it’s too soon to tell if that revenue will continue to increase enough to budget for the massive infrastructure projects that are required as Lennox continues to grow.
“I do believe we’ll continue to see healthy sales tax growth,” he said, “but I can’t bank on it until I see several years of trending data.”
Until then, the only way to pay off the loans required to update infrastructure and set Lennox up for sustainable growth, will be surcharges. But that doesn’t mean the city isn’t doing anything else to help ease the burden on households.
Within the last six months, the city has switched from a flat-fee surcharge to a usage-passed fee in an attempt to take the burden off “standard usage” households and place it on heavier users.
Despite the bad news for the cost of water, Vander Plaats and community members who attended the livestream considered the Q&A to be an overall success.
“I believe it’s a great thing to make the community feel more involved and get rid of confusion and misinformation that spreads rampant on social media,” Lennox resident Jeremy Korn said in a comment.
Vander Plaats said that due to a lack of attendance at in-person meetings, he and commissioners were worried that people in the community weren’t being engaged — an in-person meeting to discuss Boynton Avenue scheduled on the same day as the Q&A was actually cancelled due to a lack of response.
“Folks being engaged is one of my main worries,” Vander Plaats said. “When folks aren’t engaged, it’s hard to be a community.”
With 100 viewers and consistent engagement from community members throughout the livestream, Vander Plaats was glad for the positive response, and has already scheduled the next one for September 14.
If the engagement continues to be positive, repeat sessions will most likely be scheduled on a quarterly basis.