Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, Hamilton’s water and wastewater rates will begin a five-year rise, a decision Vice Mayor Michael Ryan said didn’t come easy.
The plan, which was introduced in September, would increase water rates by 8% and wastewater rates by 5% for each of the first three years. Over the final two years, water rates would increase by 4%, and wastewater rates by 9%.
City staff previously said the rate increase would increase a resident’s bill by around $4.19 a month, which equates to a 1.7% total increase in a monthly residential utility bill. The largest two utility costs for a Hamilton resident are electricity and natural gas, which have increased nationally over the past year but not in Hamilton.
Hamilton has one of the best water and wastewater rates in the area, according to the 2022 Oakwood Survey, a rate study of 64 regional local governments. The combined water and wastewater rates rank Hamilton third-best in Butler County and 26th study-wide.
Ryan spoke for several minutes on Wednesday as to why he decided to support the rate increase, saying it was a difficult but necessary decision. It was a 7-0 council decision.
“...[R]aising utility rates is the last thing I want to do during this tough economy,” he said. “Inflation is hitting you, your family, from every angle. But unfortunately, inflation is raising repair and maintenance costs on materials and products that protect our water and our wastewater utility systems, and these costs will only become more expensive if we wait to address them.”
From July 2021 to July 2022, utility gas prices have increased by 31.3% and electricity costs have increased by 16.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hamilton, however, has seen flat utility gas prices and a decrease in electric costs for customers, city officials report.
The vice mayor went on to say that “a strong utility system” requires continual upgrades, repairs and maintenance “to ensure we are delivering the safest and most reliable energy to not only our businesses but to your home. And if you’ve ever lived outside of Hamilton, you know that the taste and quality of our water, and the quality of the utilities, plus the reliability of our utilities, is something to be envied.”
Hamilton ― is the only city in the state of Ohio to own and operate all of its utilities, which also includes electric and utility gas ― last saw a water rate increase in January 2019 and a wastewater increase in July 2020.
Twice this year, the city received recognition for two of its utilities.
In May, it was announced Hamilton’s tap water was one of the world’s best, coming in second in the 32nd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Competition in Berkley Springs, West Virginia. It earned a second-place finish in the Best Purified Drinking Water division and fifth place in the Best Municipal Water category.
In past years, Hamilton’s water took first place in the Best Municipal Water category in 2010 and 2015 and was deemed best in the United States in 2009, 2014, and 2018.
The city also earned national honors for exceptional electrical reliability from the American Public Power Association, which represents more than 2,000 not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities. Hamilton was one of 199 organizations to receive a Certificate of Excellence in Reliability.
Compared to the citywide power outages, which averaged 68 minutes citywide and 52 minutes for an individual Hamilton resident in 2021, the nationwide power outage average was 153 minutes.
The proposed increase is expected to help raise more than $1 million for critical repairs for the city’s water reclamation and wastewater plants, and help with water main replacement throughout the city.
“By acting now, we can avoid a higher increase later,” Ryan said. “By acting now, we can stay ahead of critical repairs to keep our utilities efficient and effective.”
Before the vote was taken, Mayor Pat Moeller said this proposed increase had been presented to the Hamilton Utility Commission and before City Council.
5-YEAR WATER, WASTEWATER INCREASE
The city of Hamilton will see an 8% water rate increase on Jan. 1 in 2023, 2024, and 2025, and a 4% rate increase in 2026 and 2027.
The city of Hamilton will see a 5% wastewater rate increase on Jan. 1 in 2023, 2024, and 2025, and a 9% rate increase in 2026 and 2027.