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Flossmoor poised to approve rate hike to cover sewer service deficit

Flossmoor village board members Monday gave the green light to a 56-cent increase in the community’s water and sewer rate, which helps fund some of the town’s most crucial infrastructure. The new rate will be $15.16 per 1,000 gallons and will go into effect after the board approves an ordinance authorizing the increase at the July 20 meeting.

The board unanimously approved the 56-cent increase at the July 6 meeting so approval of the ordinance is nearly certain. The rate increase will be retroactive to July 1.

As its name indicates, the water and sewer rate funds two separate municipal services. Homeowners are most familiar with Flossmoor’s water bills, which are based on usage and have gotten larger as rates increase, mostly because of hikes in costs that are passed on from Chicago and Harvey, the village’s twin providers of Lake Michigan water.

In Monday’s action, however, board members opted not to increase the portion of the rate that goes for water services even though Chicago and Harvey increased their own rates in the last month. Instead, the entire 56 cents will go toward sewer services and will be designated toward easing a $128,343 deficit in those operations.

Action on the water and sewer rate was originally supposed to be part of discussions leading up to the passage of the current village budget, which was approved in April. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-in-place order, discussion on the water and sewer rate was delayed until Monday night’s meeting, the first in-person session since March.

Flossmoor Finance Director Scott Bordui told trustees that projections for the new budget indicated a $298,093 surplus for water services. Even with the deficit for sewer services, the Water and Sewer Fund would have a projected surplus of $169,750. Bordui stressed caution, though, since the pandemic has already had a negative effect on water bill collections. The village has stopped water shutoffs for delinquent homeowners and water bill receipts are down.

Chicago and Harvey both recently increased their water rates by, respectively, 2.2% and 2.3%.  Bordui said those two “pass-through” increases add 14 cents to Flossmoor’s rate.

Bordui listed five options to the board and recommended a 70-cent increase that would take into account the pass-through hikes and the sewer services deficit.

Some board members said they were uncomfortable with the full 70-cent hike. Mayor Paul Braun said he favored an increase in support of sewer services but that the village does not need to hike water costs because of the surplus in that area.

Trustee Gyata Kimmons asked Bordui what would happen if Flossmoor did not address the sewer service deficit this year.

“Our water rates are high,” Kimmons said. ”I’m just wondering if we can continue operating at a deficit for another year.”

Bordui said it’s important that the sewer deficit is addressed immediately.

“The sewer fund is so stressed that I needed to make a recommendation on this,” he said.

Public Works Director John Brunke concurred that the sewer system has maintenance issues and needs a number of costly repairs.

In the end, board members settled on the 56-cent increase just for sewer services and asked Village Attorney Kathleen Field Orr to prepare an ordinance for approval at the next meeting.

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