Saline's Utility Rates May Rise By 60 Percent Over the Next Five Years

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Saline City Council has spent a lot of time talking about water and sewer improvements over the last few years.

Monday night, council learned how much it's going to cost utility users to fund those improvements.

Bakertilly, a municipal consultant firm, presented a rate study to city council during the work meeting prior to Monday's regular meeting.

Ratepayers could see their bills rise by as much as 60 percent by 2026-27 as the city funds about $58 million in water and wastewater system improvements. Most of that is on the wastewater side of the ledger, with nearly $55 million of improvements planned as the city rehabs and rebuilds its 65-year-old treatment plant to, among other things, stay in compliance with an administrative consent order from the State of Michigan.

That means Saline residents, already paying a bit more than average for wastewater treatment, will likely see those rates rise much higher unless the cost of the project is much lower than expected or funded by grant money. The proposed increases for drinking water improvements were less drastic.

Average residential quarterly bills

Year Wastewater Water Total
2021-22 $154.90 $80.84 $235.74
2022-23 $175.93 $94.44 $270
2023-24 $204.93 $97.27 $302.20
2024-25 $233.93 $100.13 $334.06
2025-26 $262.93 $103.13 $366.06
2026-27 $270.83 $106.19 $377.02

About 80 percent of the city's water and wastewater revenue is based on consumption charges, so residents who use less than average would see lower increases.

These rates assume there are no new major developments connecting to the city system.

For industrial and commercial users, the increases are even higher. American Soy, the city's largest user of water and sewer, would see its quarterly wastewater charge jump from $65,534 to more than $114,000. Its quarterly water bill would rise from $37,078 to $52,114. That's more than $64,000 a quarter.

Mayor Brian Marl and several members of council expressed concern about the possible rate increases.

"I am concerned with the size of the increase. There's a broader issue at play here, which is that in the Saline community, we're a very desirable community, but there's a high cost of living here, and I anticipate a number of new millages, new ballot proposals in the coming year and I'm concerned of the impact that has on our young families, those working desperately to get into the middle class and our seniors and those folks on a fixed income," Marl said. "I'm not averse to an increase, but I want to come at this from every angle to see if we can control that as much as possible."

Council will discuss the issue at a work session at 5:30 p.m., March 7.

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