The Beverly Hills Village Council is holding a special meeting Tuesday at Groves High School to discuss water and sewer rate changes.
Village Manager Chris Wilson said the council plans to discuss the adoption of fixed charges for debt service and infrastructure maintenance. Doing so avoids the current practice of continually passing along rates increases to keep up with the cost of providing the service.
“The problem we’re facing is usage has declined so significantly that we’re not able to cover our costs,” Wilson said Wednesday. “Right now, many communities are in this self-perpetual cycle where they raise rates because of less use, which ends up driving down the usage even further.”
Demographics also play a part: As children age and move out of the house, retirees use less water. Plus, usage goes down when houses are remodeled and older appliances are replaced with newer, more efficient models.
Either way, the village has experienced a substantial reduction in cash reserves because of the decline in usage. As of June 30, 2015, the village had less than $250,000 in the water and sewer fund — down from $1.47 million June 30, 2012. Per state law, all revenues from water and sewer bills must go toward maintaining the operation and infrastructure of the system.
With a fixed rate, Wilson said the village can charge residents closer to the wholesale rate for water and sewer. As of Oct. 1, customers will pay $20 per bill for debt service and $65 per bill for infrastructure.
In practical terms, a customer who has a minimal bill of $40 or so a quarter will see an increase to about $120 a quarter. Wilson said the increases will be more noticeable to the lower-end users because of the fixed charges.
“These are tough decisions,” he said. “We have to maintain the water and sewer system and, at the end of the day, $30 to $40 a month for fresh clean water and to have your toilets flush when you want them to is still a pretty good bargain.
Other communities, like Livonia, have already implemented fixed charges. Tuesday’s meeting begins 7:30 p.m. with a slide show presentation, followed by a Q&A period.