Higher rates for water, sewer and trash to begin Jan. 1 in Lawrence; storm water rate increase also coming
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New City of Lawrence utility rates will soon go into effect, bringing increases to water/sewer, storm water and solid waste costs for Lawrence residents and businesses in the first months of the new year.
The Lawrence City Commission approved the capital projects, operational costs and staff raises driving the rate increase as part of its 2023 budget process, and finalized the last of the specific rate increases this month. Water/sewer and solid waste rate increases will go into effect on Jan. 1, with the most recently approved storm water rates going into effect on Feb. 1, according to a city news release.
Water and sewer rates are seeing the largest percentage increase, with rates set to increase by 8.75% next year, 10.25% in 2024 and 11% in 2025. Under the “inclining block” billing structure implemented last year, there are different rates for different water usage levels — the three inclining rates are meant to encourage conservation by charging more for excess usage such as irrigation — and for those residing outside the city. The water volume charges for residential customers for 2023 are as follows. The average residential customer uses about 4,000 gallons of water per month.
•Lowest residential rate or block 1: $8.20 per 1,000 gallons inside city limits and $9.02 per 1,000 gallons outside the city.
•Middle residential rate or block 2: $9.02 per 1,000 gallons inside city limits and $9.93 02 per 1,000 gallons outside the city.
•Highest residential rate or block 3: $9.43 per 1,000 gallons inside city limits and $10.38 per 1,000 gallons outside the city.
The monthly water service charge the city assesses per water meter will also increase beginning Jan. 1. Meters that are 5/8 inch and 3/4 inch will cost $4.90 for those inside the city and $5.40 for those outside the city. Meters that are one inch will cost $5.85 for customers inside the city and $6.45 for those outside the city.
Sewer rates for customers inside city limits will increase to $10 per 1,000 gallons of sewer water inside city limits and $13 per 1,000 gallons outside the city. The monthly sewer service charge per meter will increase to $16.40 for customers inside the city and $18.05 for those outside the city.
Solid waste rates — which include trash, recycling and yard waste pickup — will increase by 3% for residential customers and by higher amounts for some other customer categories. A breakdown of the increase is as follows:
•Single-dwelling residential: 3% increase or $0.60 per month.
•Multidwelling residential: 3% increase or $0.48 per month.
•Roll-Off (dumpster): 6% increase or $5.68 per month.
•Commercial front and rear-load (dumpsters): 5% increase.
•Commercial cart: 5% increase or $1.37 per month.
•Downtown: 10% increase or $10.92 per month.
•School recycling: 3% increase or $1.20 per month.
The commission approved the storm water rate increases as part of its meeting Dec. 20, and the second and final reading of the rate ordinance will not take place until January, which is why those rates will not go into effect until Feb. 1. The equivalent residential unit (ERU) for storm water drainage will increase to $7.38, which is a $0.32 or 4.5% increase from the 2022 rate of $7.06.
Taken together, the three utility rate increases will bring the average 2023 utility bill to $122 per month for those using 4,000 gallons of water. The news release states that increasing utility rates will help the city keep up with utility maintenance, ensuring the reliability and sustainability of its operations.
The city’s three utility funds are enterprise funds, meaning the rates charged to residents are set to cover the personnel, maintenance and other costs of operating the utility service. City utility rates have increased significantly in recent years, and city leaders have expressed an interest in expanding the very limited utility assistance provided to some low-income customers. Commissioners discussed potential formats and funding sources for expanding assistance in October, but no decisions were made. City spokesperson Porter Arneill said Wednesday that the potential expansion of utility assistance would be part of the commission’s 2024 budget discussion.
More information about the utility rate increase, including a tool for customers to estimate their new bill and links to apply for utility assistance, is available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org/utility-billing/rates.