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City residents likely to face two water rate increases in six months

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The 98,000 customers of the St. Louis water department are likely to face two rate hikes in six months.

A 19 percent hike approved in April 2008 is generating $9 million less than expected. The department saw the price of chemicals go up sharply since conducting the rate study, and also had to make nearly $2 million in payments to its pension system. Without an immediate increase to start the next fiscal year, the department would default on its bond payments.

To avoid that scenario, the department wants to increase rates by 12 percent starting July 1st. It would then work with Anheuser-Busch, its largest customer, to reduce costs before going back to the Board of Aldermen for a second increase in January 2011.

Anheuser-Busch volunteered to work with the city, said water commission Curt Skouby. He said he hoped the partnership will reduce the size of the January increase and prove the department is doing what it can to be efficient.

As for what would happen if the January request is denied, Skouby said the department would cross that bridge at that time. A failure of that request would leave the department short to the revenue needed to operate in fiscal year 2011.

"Either you cut costs and you cut services or you find some way to make it work," he said.

Though Alderman Matt Villa, the head of the Public Utilities committee and the sponsor of the rate increase, said he sees the logic in asking for the revenue all at once, he does not have the votes for that big of a rate hike.

"There's a number of folks that are on fixed incomes that are going to see an increase in water as well as a new trash bill that they've never had to pay for," he said.

The water bill for a residential customer would go up by $2.67 a month. The trash fee is $11 a month.

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