Anoka residents will see slight storm water rate increase

Anoka residents will pay a little bit more each month for disposal of the city’s storm water in 2013.

Finance Director Lori Yager presented the plan for a 30 cent monthly increase in the utility charge before the rate change was approved by the Anoka City Council.

This is Anoka’s only proposed utility increase for 2013.

“The storm water revenues should cover all of our operating costs and provide some working capital for storm water improvements throughout the city of Anoka,” said Yager.

But for 2013 she said this particular fund is projected to come up $140,000 short.

“This is a result of all improvements we have been doing throughout the city,” said Yager. “We constantly do annual improvements to streets and it’s wearing on this fund. It was just established in 2003 so it hasn’t had an opportunity to grow extensively.”

The fund hasn’t had a significant positive balance since 2006.

This 11.3 percent increase will bring in an additional $45,000 each year, according to Yager.

Under the new rate residential customers will pay $2.95 per lot each month.

Commercial properties will be charged proportionately with an increase to $33.40 per acre, up from the current rate of $30.

“Our rate increases impact all ratepayers, but they promote paying citywide,” said Yager.

Operating expenses are projected to be $150,000 next year. With the rate increase, revenues will be $460,0000.

In the past five years the city has spent $985,000 on infrastructure costs and has budgeted $297,000 for continued replacement of storm sewer mains in 2013.

Yager is projecting storm water rate increases every year for three years to catch up with the street renewal program and build reserves.

Anoka is currently on a 66-year schedule for replacing its city streets and utility infrastructure.

“Our goal is to cover our maintenance and infrastructure costs,” she said.

Comparing similar sized cities, the per lot storm sewer charge is $3.06 in Columbia Heights, $3 in Farmington and $4.56 in Rosemount.

During the public hearing on the utility rate increase, resident Pat Walker questioned whether this fund should be self-sufficient. He said he was concerned that a lack of money in this fund is holding up street renewal projects in the city.

“Who decided the fees from storm water should cover all the infrastructure costs of having a storm water system?” asked Walker. “It almost seems unreasonable. Storm sewers are expensive operations.”

According to Mayor Phil Rice, this is a philosophy the city council has followed, although for the past several years the city has had to subsidize improvements in the city’s storm water infrastructure with money from other funds.

“The attractive nature of this is that it isn’t a tax, it’s a fee and it goes across the board,” said Rice. “The bottom line is the city has to have the money. If we’re going to spend it we have to get it from somewhere and I think it’s appropriate… if it’s related to storm water then the storm water fees should cover that.”

Public Services Director Greg Lee said government regulations on storm water treatment have driven up the costs of storm water management in the city.

“I’ve never seen the river so clean, but it comes at a price,” said Councilmember Mark Freeburg.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]