Troup casts tie-breaking vote in favor of $9 monthly surcharge on utility bills, says property taxes could go down

Conte on water rates

Jeffrey Conte, director of public works, answers questions during Monday's meeting of the Quincy City Council. | David Adam

QUINCY — After aldermen voted 7-7 on the issue of adding a monthly surcharge to utility rates during Monday’s meeting of the Quincy City Council, Mayor Mike Troup cast the deciding tie-breaking vote in favor of the surcharge.

Troup also hinted he believes the increase in water and sewer bills could potentially be offset by a decrease in property taxes.

A $9 surcharge will be added to the utility bill for Quincy homeowners beginning in December. A minimal residential user with a five-eighths-inch regular meter will see a 56.9 percent increase in their monthly bill from $15.79 to $24.79. The average family with a five-eighths inch meter will see their bill increase from $40.49 to $49.49 — a 22.2 percent increase.

A commercial customer with a one-inch meter will see an 11.7 percent increase from $171 to $191. An industrial customer with a six-inch meter would see a 2 percent increase from $31,889 to $32,533. The rate hikes will offset the rising costs associated with making water from the Mississippi River consumable.

Jeffrey Conte, director of public works, previously explained to aldermen that rising costs for energy (to pump water), operating supplies (to treat water) and sludge disposal have risen dramatically this year.

“Since our cash balance has been decreasing this year (in the enterprise fund for water and sewer) because of the higher expenses, there’s some $6 million of infrastructure that had to be tabled,” Troup said after the meeting. “Then we have $7 million scheduled to redo our water treatment plant. Well, that would have to be tabled. With some additional growth of retailers and housing on the east side of town, we would need another water tower out on the east end (for water pressure). That’s a minimum of $3 million.

“There’s some $16 million that if we didn’t approve this tonight that would have been pushed off for some period of time. I’m grateful we got that approved.”

Monday’s vote was the second tie vote among alderman in three months that Troup had to break with his own vote. Troup voted in September to approve an ordinance to eliminate the city’s curbside recycling program.

Voting against the utility rate ordinance were Greg Fletcher (R-1), Jeff Bergman (R-2), Dave Bauer (D-2), Mike Farha (R-4), Mike Rein (R-5), Richie Reis (D-6) and Patty Maples (D-6).

Voting in favor of the ordinance were Eric Entrup (R-1), Kelly Mays (R-3), Parker Freiburg (R-3), Tony Sassen (R-4), John Mast (R-5), Jack Holtschlag (D-7) and Ben Uzelac (D-7).

“I’m just worried about our infrastructure and us getting off our track,” Entrup said. “We’ve been on a good track of trying to get caught up. It’s just an uncountable number of millions that we have to keep up with down there. Even putting off one year gets us backed up by more millions. It’s never going to go away. It’s something our kids are going to have to pay. … I don’t see many options around it myself.”

“No increase is ever welcome,” Conte said. “I’m a rate payer myself. I don’t want to pay more money, but with the dramatic loss seen in the last six months, it has to be addressed.”

During a discussion about the ordinance, Rein asked, “What about an alternative?” 

Troup then asked Rein, “Which alternative?” Rein replied, “The one you shared with me this morning about the reduction in property taxes.”

Troup then explained he’s waiting on an actuarial study that’s due this week.

“We know we’re going to fund our police and fire pensions at 100 percent like we did last year,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what that amount is, but if it’s in the range of what we were anticipating, my plan is to present to this council a reduced property tax levy that will be under a dollar.

“What do we have, $1.08? We believe we’re going to be able to bring that down into the 90s, and if things line up exactly where we think we have possibilities, we will end up bringing to you the lowest property tax levy that this council has seen in decades.”

Water bills will be rising $108 next year for residential customers. Troup said after the council meeting he thought the money saved in property taxes “would be close to that.”

“I don’t know that we’re going to be exactly dollar for dollar,” he said. “When I got elected, I was trying to find a way of how we’re going to be able to decrease property taxes. That’s been my mission. Controlling our expenses by looking at where we need to spend the money and, let’s be prudent, where we can save money. We’ve got to save on our property taxes.”

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