KALAMAZOO, Mich. — People in the Kalamazoo area will now be paying more for their water and sewer bills.
City commissioners approved a rate hike at Monday night's meeting with a unanimous vote.
Residents supplied by the city of Kalamazoo's water and wastewater services will now pay about 20% more for their bills each month.
The increases are due to the unprecedented inflationary pressures, something the city's public service director stressed at an earlier meeting.
They'll also go towards necessary upgrades like station, treatment and process improvements, lead service line replacements, replacement of the cast iron water main, sewer improvements and wastewater treatment improvements.
The state of Michigan's average for water and wastewater remains just under $70, around $69.48 per month.
For city of Kalamazoo residents, monthly bills average around $44.72 each month. With the increase, it would average around $53.66 per month.
For township residents, average combined water and wastewater bills hit around $51.21 per month. The increase would raise costs to $61.41 per month on average.
While officials stressed the increase still puts people under the state average, some people at the meeting spoke against the hike.
"You guys are not remembering how close to the margin so many families in this town are, and a 20% hike is a lot. If any of us experienced a 20% hike on any of our other bills, any of them, we would like for alternatives. There is not a thing we would stick with for a 20% hike, but yet water we have to have," said City of Kalamazoo resident Martin Klemm.
"This is a very precarious thing that is happening right now and yet it has to be done. There was so little investment over the last few decades that now it seems like everything is overwhelming. We need to do what we need to do for the entire community," said City of Kalamazoo Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman.
Sewer rates will go into effect on October 1, 2022. The new water rates will be implemented a little later and is expected to begin on January 1, 2023.
The city will not consider another rate hike until 2024.
If you need help with your water bills, Kalamazoo has ways you can get assistance.
The 'Low Income Household Water Assistance Program' is a temporary emergency program to help low-income households pay overdue water bills.
The 'Michigan Homeowner Assistance Fund' can also help with utility payments. You need to be at or below 150% of the area median income and have hardship that is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city of Kalamazoo is creating a 'Water Affordability Program' for customers that will start in 2024.
You can learn more through the city's website.