Because of state and federal mandates, a sanitary sewer rate increase in Independence will take effect Aug. 1.

Because of state and federal mandates, a sanitary sewer rate increase in Independence will take effect Aug. 1.

The Independence City Council unanimously adopted the schedule of changes Monday night. Residential and small commercial customers will experience a new regulatory compliance charge of $3 per monthly bill.

The $3 charge per bill will remain in effect until the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years when it will increase to $6 per monthly bill. That compliance charge will then increase to $9 per monthly bill in 2014-15.

Volume rates, based on per hundred cubic feet of water usage, also will increase 3 percent in 2010-11 and will increase 4.5 percent each following year in the rate schedule.

Customers also will experience an increase in their sanitary sewer base rates starting in the 2011-12 fiscal year. This increase, according to city staff, will fund the city’s ongoing expenses with operating, managing and retrofitting improvements associated with a facility that is more than three decades old.

The base rate increases will take place in years opposite the regulatory compliance charge increases. The base rate will increase from $9.60 to $10.60 per monthly residential bill in 2011-12. That rate will then increase $1 per bill to $11.60 in fiscal year 2013-14. (These dollar amounts differ for commercial and industrial users based on their respective meter sizes.)

This rate schedule includes the seniors’ discount for residential low-volume users that was adopted in 1995.

The city of Independence owns and operates the Rock Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, at 9600 Norledge St., but it also is a member of the Little Blue Valley Sewer District. According to Dick Champion, city of Independence Water Pollution Control director, the Little Blue Valley Sewer District is forecasting a 6 percent increase in its rates, facing the same mandate pressures as the city of Independence.

The last Independence sanitary sewer rate increase took place in 2007, Champion said. The federal and state requirements for Independence total more than $57 million.

“We believe we’ll be in compliance at the federal and state levels. As I speak, those laws are still being contemplated and changed,” Champion said. “It’s a moving target, but I’ve got my periscope up, and I’m watching them.”

The city decided on a five-year rate plan because of nature of expenditures, City Manager Robert Heacock said.

“When you’re bonding for funds, you need to demonstrate to those bondholders who are purchasing those that you’re going to have sufficient revenue to meet those financial commitments,” Heacock said. “We spread that out over time because we know that not all of those expenditures are going to occur overnight, but we have a schedule of when they’re going to occur and we design the rates to meet those financial requirements.”

Heacock said separating the base rate and regulatory compliance charge expenses aims for customers to see more effectively where their dollars will go, rather than combining it into one expense. “They are what they are, and we’re trying to comply,” Heacock said of the mandates. “The reality is, back in the 1950s when a lot of our plants were designed, engineers prescribed dilution as the solution, but the understanding of the impact on the environment has changed. The rules are what they are.”