Every year, the city completes a roadway rehabilitation project in different neighborhoods where repairs are deemed most necessary. As part of this work, the city reviews the condition of the water and sewer infrastructure under these roadways so that if repairs are needed they can be coordinated with the roadway repairs. This approach minimizes disruption and is most cost effective.
Property owners share the cost of these repairs via special assessments, which are charges to a specific property for a specific improvement performed by the city. There are separate assessments for roadway repairs and water/sewer infrastructure repairs. Most roadway projects in the past have not required major water or sewer improvements; only minor repairs. However, as water and sewer infrastructure ages, staff are anticipating significant repairs.
These are costly repairs that, under the previous policy, could result in up to $10,000 or more in assessments for some property owners. In early 2017, staff and Council began discussing new ways property owners could pay for their share of water and sewer improvement projects. (No changes will be made to how assessments are calculated for roadway repairs.) Instead of assessing property owners for water and sanitary sewer improvements, the work is now be funded entirely through an increase in the Water and Sanitary Sewer Utility Fund rates (collected through quarterly utility bills). The issue was discussed at the July 19, 2017, Council Workshop and an article with initial thoughts on the topic was published in the August 2017 Woodbury City Update newsletter.
In order to increase the balance of the Water and Sanitary Sewer Utility Fund to cover the potential shift in these costs, the following changes are now in effect:
- The base water rate and city sewer rate has increased and the water usage rate tiers also changed (see charts).
- The city’s current operating portion of the sanitary sewer charge increased from $21.74 to $26 per quarter.
- The sanitary sewer charges passed along from Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) increased 1.6 percent, reflecting Woodbury’s increased use of the regional sanitary sewer system and MCES rate increases.
In addition to these changes, a previously planned irrigation rate change for commercial and homeowner association properties have been implemented in 2018, changing the rate from $2.32 to $2.53 per thousand gallons based on the five-step increase plan approved by the City Council in 2016.
Protecting and maintaining critical infrastructure is important for enjoying a high quality of life in Woodbury for years to come. The change is about looking forward and proactively avoiding a potential funding issue down the road.
Funding these future improvements through a utility rate increase has many advantages. First, a utility rate increase should be more manageable for property owners to budget for than a large lump sum assessment. Also, shifting the costs to the utility fund ensures all municipal utility customers contribute, including places of worship, schools and other non-taxable properties. Lastly, the increases in water rates and the changes to the water usage tiers also encourages responsible water use by property owners.
The city has been responsible with managing utility rates; Woodbury's water rates are the lowest among comparable cities in the metro area. Even with these changes, the city's rates will be among the middle of the pack when stacked up against the rates of comparable cities in the metro area.
The new water and sewer rates and changes to the assessment policy outlined above are now effective and will be implemented with 2018 Roadway Rehabilitation Project assessments.
Questions can be directed to the Engineering Division at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 714- 3593.
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