October 17, 2012 - Independence Township residents will pay more for sewer and burials in 2013. During their Special Budget meeting on October 9, the township board voted to increase sewer rates from $80 per quarter to about $83.25 per quarter, said DPW Director Linda Richardson.
Residents will see the change in rates on their sewer bills on February 15, 2013.
Why is there an increase?
"My cost to discharge into the Clinton-Oakland [sewer district] has increased; plus we have bonds we have to pay for the Oakland Macomb interceptor," said Richardson.
Furthermore, "there are improvements being made to the Clinton-Oakland system, and we have a proportionate share of that cost," she said.
The price to discharge into Clinton-Oakland increased 7.6 percent (about $200,000 more) this year, Richardson said. Her sewer budget in 2013 will be about $4.6 million, which is down from 2012's $4.9 million.
Improvements to the township's sewer system such as relining to fix leaks and root problems are also a part of the cost considered in the rate increase. "We've been looking at trying to get an addition to our building since 2003. I have equipment that sits outside," Richardson said.
Illegal sump pumps connected to the sewer system impact operation rates too. "It's a constant flow of water coming into our sewer system that we have to pay for," said Richardson. While connecting a sump pump to the sewer is illegal, the manpower needed to monitor the inflow from unlawful sump pumps isn't available, she said.
The increase in 2013 isn't the last time citizens will be asked to pay more for sewer, said Richardson. "The city of Detroit raises their rates every year," she said.
In fact, the rate hike this year would be higher if the township did not have fund reserves for sewer, Richardson explained.
"We're drawing down on our cash reserves to try to keep the rates as low as possible," said Richardson. Those reserves are made up of previous years' surpluses, and using them allows the township to keep rates low despite regular increases.
Richardson said, "the board is being active," by planning in advance to use fund reserves alongside annual rate increases to avoid extreme rate escalations. However, as sewer rates continue to increase annually, "we have to pass it on." The annual increase has been changed from 3.6 to 4 percent.
We are looking at maybe going on a flow-base; we don't have a consensus yet," said Richardson. A "flow-base" system would mean sewer bills would be based on the amount of water used as opposed to the flat rate residents currently pay.
Besides digging a little deeper into their pockets to cover higher sewer bills, residents will also pay more in funeral expenses.
"In order for us to stay comparable with the neighboring communities, and so revenues meet our expenditures, I am proposing a 9.5 percent increase for the lot sales," said Richardson. Burial fees will increase 3.5 percent too.
Lot sales for residents are currently at $600. In 2013 they will increase to $657. Nonresident lots are $820 and will increase to $898. Cremations for residents are $420 and will increase to $460; for non-residents the rate is $525 and will increase to $575. Burial fees will increase from $575 to $606. The last rate increase for the cemetery was 2011.
Part of the increase will go to a perpetual care fund, Richardson explained. "The perpetual care fund is there to maintain the cemetery after you no longer have lot sales and you no longer have burials," said Richardson.
The cemetery is estimated to be full in approximately 15 to 20 years. Without revenue from new burials, the township will need funds to maintain the cemetery and will do so by drawing from the perpetual care fund.
Although sewer and burial costs have increased, water rates will stay the same. "We're currently at $1.98 per 100 cubic feet of water," said Richardson. Residents can view their water and sewer bills online at www.twp.independence.mi.us.
Clarkston News reporter