On Tuesday night, Naperville’s City Council gave residents an early $1.2 million Christmas present. This largesse came when a previously scheduled Jan. 1 increase to water and wastewater delivery rates was cancelled. City staff determined, and council concurred, that enough money was in the unrestricted funds to allow this reduction without endangering our municipally-owned water utility’s fiscal health.
Even so, there will still be a figurative lump of coal in next year’s utility bills. Since Naperville is only a portion of what shows up on the monthly bill, we will still be paying more. Chicago, which pumps the water out of Lake Michigan, and the DuPage County Water Commission, responsible for delivering water to Naperville, are continuing with their planned annual increases. Chicago’s 15 percent hike becomes 18 percent when passed on by DuPage commission, leading to an expected monthly hike of 6.73 percent or $5.18 for the typical (whomever that might be) residential user.
When the rates went up by almost 10 percent earlier this year, I wrote that our alternative was to use less water by checking for running toilets, dripping faucets and using rain barrels for garden irrigation. This advice remains relevant, and the payback looks even better when considering that a projected 9.36 percent hike will tack another $7.69 onto monthly bills beginning in February 2015.
To learn more about what’s in utility bills, the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation’s next meeting at 8 a.m. Dec. 14 in meeting rooms B and C of the Naperville Municipal Center, will feature the directors of Naperville’s electric and water and wastewater utilities.
Responsible for keeping water flowing into and from our homes, as well as making sure the lights stay on, these departments are critical to our quality of life and represent the lion’s share of the monthly bill we get for city services. We have asked that their presentation cover not only rates but also ongoing projects and future plans. The last time DPU was at the NAHC podium, we were one of the first groups to hear about the then planned Smart Grid implementation. While I do not think anything this far reaching will be discussed this month, it remains a great opportunity to learn about what can impact our homes and neighborhoods.
Speaking of holiday gifting, it is time for annual governmental letters to Santa, aka the proposed property tax levy. The bill that shows up in May is built from various government budgets under discussion for the upcoming year.
While individual property assessments determine how much of the pie a property owner gets, the budgets and associated levy requests, dictate the overall size of what the taxpayers will eat.
So far, with money from other sources looking good, the city of Naperville will reduce what they want from property taxes. Other groups, like schools and parks, without access to large amounts of other funding, are looking for more.
Rather than saying you weren’t warned, you might want to pay attention to the budgets that will be passed this month.
Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.