Editor's Note: See related documents located at the bottom of the article.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell today revealed to The Blade editorial board a five-year plan for incremental water rate increases.
The increases the mayor will ask council to enact would cost the average household an additional $125 a year by 2018.
Mr. Bell said the increases are needed to help pay for a long list of repairs and upgrades to the drinking water plant in East Toledo - including a new 40-million gallon redundant treatment unit. All of the work is mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The plan also includes spending about $10 million a year for five years to replace underground water lines, which are on average, 72 years old.
Without the fixes to the system, Mr. Bell said there would inevitably be a “critical incident” forcing everyone who uses Toledo water to live with a boil advisory.
The upgrades will cost $314 million over five years and would be funded through 20 years of bonds financed at just more than 3 percent. The water rate increases would back those bonds, the mayor said.
The mayor stressed the need to consider the dollar amount of each annual increase rather than the percentage of the hikes.
The current monthly rate for 3,000 cubic feet of water, which is about 246 gallon a day, is $14.53.
If Toledo City Council approves Mr. Bell's plan, that monthly rate would increase 13.2 percent each year starting in 2014 through 2017. It would then increase another 4.5 percent in 2018.
Under the plan, the monthly costs would be $16.45 in 2014; $18.62 in 2015; $21.08 in 2016; $23.86 in 2017, and $24.93 in 2018.
The city is at the end of a four-year water rate increase that raised the cost 9 percent each year.
Toledo City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson said she would keep an open mind about the proposed rate increase but stopped short of pledging support for the plan.
“I think that we have to look at it carefully and within the context of the needs we have to meet,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “I am sure we will have a series of hearings.”