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TALLMADGE -- Some residents may see their sewer rates rise in 2017. During his recent State of the City address, Mayor Dave Kline said he believes the city will need to "modify" sewer rates "one more time" to comply with a proposed master meter agreement with the city of Akron for sanitary sewer service.
City Council's public service committee is considering legislation which would authorize the agreement through Jan. 1, 2040. Tallmadge Finance Director Mollie Gilbride said the contract calls for a rate increase each year for the first four years of the contract.
About two-thirds of Tallmadge is served by Akron sewer. Akron's sewer system serves five master-metered areas, including Tallmadge, under separate sewer-service agreements. The proposed agreement which Council is considering would establish a formula for setting the rate which Akron will charge the city.
Tallmadge's Public Service Director Bryan Esler said last week a rate increase which the city enacted last autumn "will not cover completely the increase that Akron is going to impose on us."
The previous agreement between the two cities has been expired since 2000, but the parties have continued to operate under the old agreement. Tallmadge paid Akron $1,757,490.81 for sewer service in 2016, according to Gilbride.
On Sept. 1, 2016, Tallmadge raised rates by 25 percent for households and businesses in Tallmadge whose sewers are serviced by the city of Akron. Esler said at the time the city's sewer fund could no longer absorb price increases being imposed by Akron. Akron has been raising the prices it has been charging municipalities so that it can pay for repairs to combined sewers mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to Esler.
"No decision has currently been made on an increase in 2017," according to Gilbride. She said city officials would like to see the full effect of the 2016 rate increase before deciding what additional increases are necessary. The city of Tallmadge did budget for a rate increase in 2017, she added.
Tallmadge City Council has adopted a minimum fund balance policy to ensure the city maintains an adequate reserve of funds in its sewer fund to operate in the case of an emergency or to cover any revenue shortfalls due to collection issues. Gilbride says the minimum fund balance policy requires the sewer fund maintain a minimum fund balance of 25 percent of operating appropriations. The city ended 2016 "right around the minimum fund balance requirements thanks to the rate increase and conservative spending," Gilbride said.
Chris Ludle, Akron's deputy director of public service, says the Tallmadge sewer system connects to Akron's sewer collection system at two primary locations: 1. Campbrook monitoring station located along Brittain road south of Evans; and 2. Eastwood monitoring station located at the intersection of Eastwood and Alaho. According to Ludle, Akron will calculate master meter community rates every four years using budgeted costs for the current year and estimated costs for the subsequent three years.
Absorbing increases passed on by Akron cuts into the balance of the city's sewer fund and affects Tallmadge's ability to operate its own sewer department, Tallmadge officials say.
Sewer rates are based on the amount of water consumption as recorded by water meter readings, and water and sewer charges are combined into one quarterly bill.
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC