Most Mesa utility customers would pay more for utilities, and all would soon be hit with new fees to support environmental programs under a decision by the Mesa City Council on Monday.
The council tentatively agreed to those and adopted an official notice of intent to increase the water rate 6.6 percent, while sewer, garbage and natural gas rates would all go up 5 percent. If approved at a final vote in June, the rates would take effect Aug. 1.
Utility rates are raised almost every year to fund general city operations.
Also, Mesa proposes to tag on a $3 monthly charge to help the city comply with $4.6 million in federal storm water and air quality regulations. Many on the council support a smaller charge.
A final vote wasn’t scheduled. A 20-cent monthly charge to pay for four household hazardous waste events held each year had been previously agreed upon.
The rate increases and new fees were discussed less than a week after voters rejected a primary property tax. But council members said the new
environmental fees were unrelated to the election outcome, which forced the city to cut $14 million from its budget and continue to rely heavily on utility revenue.
“As long as the federal government mandates us to do it, we need to find a way to pay for it,” Councilman Kyle Jones said.
But the two new fees raised the suspicion of Valley Business Owners, now gathering signatures to require a public vote on utility rate increases.
“It’s another back-door way of increasing taxes,” said David Molina, the group’s president.
For the past year, Mesa officials have projected 5 percent utility increases for all services. With the increase, the city wouldn’t have to raise the rates of the electric company’s 15,680 customers, who have complained for years that they pay an unfair share to the city. Electric customers pay an average 13 percent more each year than Mesa homeowners with Salt River Project service.
This would be the ninth increase in water, sewer and gas rates in 11 years, and the eighth increase in garbage rates over the same period.
Proposed increases Water: 6.6 percent; current average: $32.56; new: $34.70 ($2.14 monthly increase) Sewer: 5 percent; current average: $19.67; new: $20.66 ($0.99 monthly increase) Garbage: 5 percent; current average: $20.55; new: $21.78 ($1.23 monthly increase with $0.20 household hazardous waste fee) Gas: 5 percent; current average: $41.65; new: $42.69 ($1.04 increase) Electric: None Total: $5.40 per month/$64.80 per year Other proposed fee: $3 a month for environmental program compliance