Midvale council approves water rate increase, effective Sept 1Aug 02, 2021 10:33AM ● By Erin Dixon
City Manager Matt Dahl speaks to residents about the need for the water rate increase during an open house in July. (Erin Dixon/City Journals)
By Erin Dixon | [email protected]
On July 20, Midvale City Council approved a five-year rate increase schedule for the water fund. Starting Sept 1, there will be an increase in every water bill in Midvale, and for the next five years it will increase a little more.
During a public open house, City Manager Matt Dahl, explained to the residents in attendance that the water system in the city is severely outdated.
Dahl said the original system was put in back in the ‘40s when the wells were drilled. “We still have components of that 1940-50 system throughout our city.”
Not all of the system is 60 years old, there have been updates along the way. Another piece to the increased need is for more storage. In 2000, land on the eastern side of Midvale was annexed into the city and with that came a different water system.
“We had to provide storage for that [new] area,” Dahl said. “In order for us to provide that storage, we did not have the ability or the land, we opted to lease with Sandy for that storage. That expired in 2019.”
A new agreement was made with Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District for 2020 to 2029. “While they’re great to work with, they previously indicated they would like for us to actually be done with their storage come 2029,” Dahl said. “What we’re told is we need to provide a little over 10 million gallons.”
How much will it cost? Assistant City Manager Kyle Maurer explained to the city council that an external engineering firm, Hansen, Allen and Luce, conducted a study to identify needs and project costs over the next five years.
“We recently completed a water master plan that identified $26 million in needed projects along with $2.3 mill just to do annual replacement of aging pipes,” Maurer said.
What are the rate increases?
The city is divided into three rate zones based on meter size. Area one has a base rate of $19.95. Area two is $22.20. Area three is $23.13.
Within the next five years the three zones will be equaled so every resident pays the same amount. This year the increases are between 7-11% depending on the zone, which equates to about $1 to $5 a month for single family homes. Higher water users will see an increase between $66 and $83 per month.
How the rate increase will work
In the past, water rates have been determined by the season, on-peak or off-peak (summer or winter). Now the price will be determined on how much water is used, on top of the base rate.
“The lower water users will see less of an increase, depending on how much water they use. Commercial users, some multi-family, will see larger increases,” Maurer said.
Tier One: If you use less than 12,000 gallons the rate is $1.50 per 1,000 gallons.
Tier Two: If you use between 12,000 and 55,000 gallons the rate is $1.88 per 1,000 gallons.
Tier Three:If you use between 55,000 and 98,000 gallons the rate is $2.16 per 1,000 gallons.
Tier Four: If you use over 98,000 gallons the rate is $2.26 per 1,000 gallons.
Where will the new storage go?
“We have to put it in Cottonwood Heights or Sandy because a big portion is that we need to make sure we have enough pressure in our system,” Dahl said. The search for land is ongoing.
Is new growth making it more expensive for past residents?
At the open house, a resident expressed concerns over a previous promise that now seems to be broken.
“Before you put in all those apartments over there I went to every single meeting and they said to me, your rates will not go up,” the resident said. “You guaranteed me that with all the growth it wasn’t going up and now it’s going up. Something’s not right here. I don’t like to be misled.”
“I’m sure something like that happened,” Dahl said. “I hear you. Just to be clear though, the vast majority of costs would happen anyway.
“I find myself looking back and going ‘Why did we do that, it seems like a very poor decision.’ What I’ve come back to, not all the details are remembered, we don’t know what was in the negotiations.”
Why doesn’t the city have enough with increasing property values?
Councilmember Quinn Sperry quoted questions residents asked him about rising property values and city revenue.
“They think because home values are going up we should be getting more money,” Sperry said.
Maurer explained that property tax income does not grow with property values. “Each [taxing] entity will receive the same amount as the last year, plus any new growth. If the property value goes up, your tax rate goes down.”
New growth would only bring in $40,000 next year.
What if you can’t afford an increase, if you’re on a fixed income?
“Those scenarios weigh on me. There are going to be some households that it impacts them,” Sperry said. “I don’t want people to think we’re not cognizant.”
There are some programs available to help those who need financial aid. “If a homeowner qualifies for the county Circuit Breaker program which is a property tax abatement program, they would, of course, get a discount on their property tax bill. On the flip side, in Midvale City we will discount their base rates, all of their services 45%,” Maurer said.
There is a state program called Home Energy Assistance Target (HEAT) program that can also help with heat and gas.
Mayor Robert Hale referred residents to the Senior Center next to City Hall.
“Seniors can go and talk with the director and she can give directions on where to go. That’s always available for you,” Hale said.