On September 17, 2019, North Olmsted City Council adopted Ordinance 2019-75, which establishes new sewer rates for North Olmsted customers through 2027.
North Olmsted Finance Director Carrie Copfer says the increases will be very modest compared to the changes customers experienced when rates increased 64% between 2011 and 2019. “I understand the stress the previous increase in rates caused residents,” said Copfer. “Those dramatic rate increases were necessary to meet the EPA mandated $58.4 million of improvements to the waste water treatment plant and collection system. With the major construction done, the utility is now in a financially stable period.”
Copfer says the rates for North Olmsted customers will stay essentially the same through 2021 with annual increases of 2% in years 2022 through 2025 and 2.5% for 2026 and 2027.
Sanitary sewer service billing is based on water usage from the Cleveland Water, which switched in 2016 from quarterly to monthly billing. To ensure continued collection of necessary revenues and simplify the overall rate structure, the city administration engaged the firm Hazen and Sawyer to complete the 2019 rate study.
“The rates developed in the rate study provide adequate resources to meet the financial needs of the treatment plant and collection system, which includes all debt service requirements and capital needs as well as having adequate funds for operations, maintenance and repair,” said Copfer.
One capital project on the horizon will add a large underground basin to hold sanitary overflow during storm events. Mayor Kevin Kennedy said projects like these are his priority. “The thing I’m most excited about is continuing the great progress we’ve made in eliminating flooding issues in the community. These rates will support more capital investment into our infrastructure that will benefit and protect our residents and businesses.”
The city also used the rate study to consider ways to minimize the impact to individual customers. “We are finally able to provide some rate relief for those who receive the Cleveland Water homestead credit and who qualify for the affordability discount program,” said Copfer. These programs will extend a 50% discount for North Olmsted customers who have qualified with the Cleveland Division of Water.
How do North Olmsted’s rates stack up in the region? The city’s sewer rates have been lower than Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) since 2016. The city’s 2019 sewer rate of 86.06 per mcf is 9.5% below NEORSD’s suburban rate, and in 2021, the city’s sewer rate will be 19.4% lower. While NEORSD rates have not been established beyond 2021, it is worth noting that even if their rates did not increase at all, North Olmsted’s 2027 rate would still be 8.4% lower.
“We’ve worked diligently to make the necessary capital and operational improvements to offer reliable and cost-effective sewer service to our customers,” said Kennedy. “Our plant and collection system are more than a public utility serving our residents, they are also an economic development tool,” said Kennedy, noting that for larger commercial and industrial users, keeping low sewer rates translates into significant annual savings.