Keizerites are about to be squeezed a little more, financially. The city’s Finance Officer Tim Wood reported to City Council during the Sept. 19 session that most Keizer residents would be facing a more than $20 annual hike in their wastewater management fees in 2023 and 2024.
Wood said an annual increase is nothing new, but due to high inflation and residual economic damage from the COVID pandemic, the next two years would see nearly double the normal rate increase.
Keizer’s wastewater is managed through a regional system operated by the City of Salem. A regional council meets once every two years to set rate increases, and although Keizer is represented at that meeting, the rates are set regionally and the city has no control over it.
“Part of what they do every two years is a cost-of-service analysis specific to the City of Keizer, and based on that analysis, they come back and say these are the rates for the next two years,” he said. “Normally they try to keep it under 3%, but this year they came back with a 5.6% and a 5.2% increased rate.”
Wood said this amounts to a $24 increase in wastewater fees for the average Keizer resident during each of the next two years. The primary reason, he said, was due to disruptions in the supply chain.
“The sewer system is very materials-intensive,” said Wood. “A lot of infrastructure goes into cleaning the wastewater.”
Wood said the funds collected by the city through the wastewater management fee go straight to the City of Salem in a “pass-through” revenue system.
Mayor Cathy Clark opened up the floor for public comment on the rate-hike, saying that even though there was no requirement for input, it could have a substantial impact on some Keizer households. The only taker was Catherine Stone, a Keizer resident who summed up the topic by asking council members “What choice do we have?”
Eliciting some laughter, Councilor Dan Kohler offered an answer: “None, unless we want to build our own treatment plant, and I guarantee that will cost more than 5%,” he said.