Sunnyside sewer rates will increase by 10 percent effective June 1.
And that's good news, according to City Manager Bob Stockwell, who noted that original estimates figured an increase of 25 percent.
"No one likes to see rates go up, but this is good news," he said.
The city council approved the rate increase last night, as a way to help defray costs associated with the city's $18 million upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant.
Additional increases are set to be phased in over a three-year period, rising a combined total of 30 percent by summer 2008.
Grants lowered the actual amount the city had to borrow to $12.3 million. That will be paid back at zero percent interest over a 20-year period.
After former Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar noted that first estimates for sewer improvements totaled $11 million, Stockwell replied that when he started with the city two years ago the price range was between $14 and $19 million.
Public Works Director Jim Bridges added that inflation in the construction industry increased estimates at an annual rate of 25 percent.
The sewer rate hike means the minimum residential sewer charge will increase from $22.33 to $24.56 per month on June 1. The minimum fee is for 300 cubic feet of water consumption per month.
Minimum sewer fees will increase again to $26.77 as of June 1, 2007, and to $29.18 on June 1, 2008.
The fee increases were based on a sewer rate study presented to council on Feb. 27. That study showed increases would be needed to not only cover repayment of the loan, but to rebuild the city's depleted sewer reserves.
During the third year of sewer rate increases, city staff will update the sewer rate study to determine if rates should be increased further.