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Sewer fees could go up under proposal before Las Vegas council

Updated August 16, 2022 - 6:38 pm

The city of Las Vegas is considering a proposal to increase sewer service fees.

The plan calls for a yearly 4 percent rise over the next decade, in addition to the annual consumer index increase already in place, according to the ordinance that is not yet up for a City Council vote.

If the council approves the ordinance, that would translate to $19 more in 2023, pushing the current $270 fee to $289.

The influx of funds, proposed to meet development growth demands, would cover costs the city incurs to maintain and improve sewer treatment systems and fund expansion projects, Mike Janssen, the city’s infrastructure executive director, said Monday during a recommending committee meeting.

Because of a strained supply chain, he added, costs for key chemicals used to process the wastewater also are expected to rise.

“We’re sometimes looked at as sort of the unknown utility, but at the end of the day, it’s a tremendously important utility that we serve for our community needs,” he said.

The increase proposal came after a rate study the city typically commissions every decade, Janssen said.

The rate hike discussion was originally intended for the beginning of 2021 but was put on hold because of the pandemic, Janssen said.

New rates also would apply to bottlers, dairies, restaurants and laundries, according to the proposal. Sewer connecting fees also would go up, driving that cost to $2,551 in 2023.

Aside from inflation costs, the city has not increased fees since 2005, and customers saw no increases from 2010 to 2012, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Janssen said.

Janssen warned that not increasing the rates would lead to shortfalls in the budget for capital improvement projects. He noted that the last time the city came close to not being able to meet growth demands, in 2004 and 2005, rates went up considerably.

But even with the proposed increase, sewer fees would still be below the national average and cheaper than North Las Vegas and Henderson, where customers pay $450 and $316 a year, Janssen said.

Only Clark County — with a $246 yearly fee — pays less, and Reno homeowners pay much more at $603 a year, he said.

It was unclear if the ordinance has the council votes needed to pass. Citing an unstable economy, Councilwoman Michele Fiore, a member of the recommending committee, said she opposed moving forward with the proposal at least until next year.

“I’m hoping that we’re going to stable out around Christmas,” she said. “And I think this would be a much better conversation in January of 2023. Today I could not ever support a rate increase — I do understand the necessity of this — but I cannot support a rate increase to anything at all until we get our economy stable.”

If the ordinance passes, it would go through a review in five years, and costs can be offset if federal grant applications are approved, or if there’s a “significant slowdown” in development, Janssen said.

Fiore and Councilman Brian Knudsen on Monday voted to forward the ordinance to the council without making any recommendations.

The item is on Wednesday’s council agenda under the bills eligible for adoption for a later meeting, but it’s not up for discussion or possible action unless council members decided to strike or table it.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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