22 Oct

Water Bills

There have been numerous complaints about “water bills”. These bills are called “utility bills” by the City. We’d call them City Fees. There are 5 components to the City bill:

  • Fixed water charges – all single residences pay the same amount
  • Water Usage charges – varies by amount of water in hundred cubic feet used
  • Sewer – a charge that is both fixed tied to how much water is used
  • Surface Water- a fixed charge for the storm water system
  • Street Maintenance – a fixed charge that goes to repair streets

But why have these bills gone up so much?

Source: Lake Oswego Master Fees and Charges 2015 Effective January 1, 2015

As you can see in the above chart and table in the past 10 years almost all charges have gone up and 3 of the 4 have more than doubled. Why?

Our past City Councils with their big spending programs have caused many of these increases by the decisions they made years ago. For example, look at the following chart and see how Wastewater charges jump (blue line). That is caused by the famous LOIS (Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer). Bonds were used to fund this project – over $90 million of bonds! Did we need to spend that much?

Source: Lake Oswego Master Fees and Charges Effective January 1, 2015

The LOIS Project was very expensive and few alternatives were evaluated.

Then we have the brain child of former Mayor Julie Hammerstead – the Lake Oswego Tigard Water Project (LOTWP). It is building a Cadillac, a water plant with capacity of 36 million gallons per day. Lake Oswego’s average usage is less than 6 million gallons per day but Tigard is getting 18 million gallons per day. And Lake Oswego is paying 46% of the building cost!

At the same time, the City is increasing the cost per hundred cubic feet of water used. The first 800 cubic feet cost $2.62 per hundred cubic feet. Over 1700 cubic feet costs $7.06 per hundred cubic feet. If you used 5800 cubic feet of water in August as one of our Board members did your water alone would be $347.64.

Why has the cost per cubic foot of water gone up so much? The charts below show the water bills fixed and variable parts. Note that the fixed part began rising in 2011-12. This is when the LOTWP started! And the variable rates have been going up as well – even though we are using the same water and water plant in prior years. The reason – LOTWP costs.

 

This project was conceived under prior City Councils. Since taking office in 2012 members of the current Council have taken steps to reduce the ownership costs for the new water plant. But costs continue to be added to this project and the Council. At the October 6th meeting, the Council approved on the consent agenda another $500,000 in costs for the project!

How do we change this?

Unfortunately, not much can be done about these projects and your City Fee bills. BUT, we can change things moving forward. We can work to elect City Council members and a Mayor who will take charge of the City and stop all the spending.

Elections are coming in 2016!

Pay attention to who will pledge to stop the spending!

 

4 thoughts on “Water Bills

  1. Great information and useful but the question of how in the world I and most of my neighbors could possibly use as much water as we are being billed for remains a mystery. We are being billed for thousands of gallons, quantities that would fill small swimming pools. Simply not true.
    One of the most frustrating replies that we received while voicing our concerns was that if we were having trouble with payment an installment plan could be set up. What a complete slap in the face. Obviously we are to stupid to turn the facet off or we were watering our lawn 24 hours a day or the mithical leak or broken pipe was thrown out as if 30 or 40 of my neighbors suffered a catastrophic pipe failure at the same time. No one uses water in the quantities that are being billed for-ever. The idea that the water meater was read incorrectly was raised. Really. Everyone’s meeter? At the same time. No one believes that.
    Here’s a thought. When word of this hits the street, and it will, how on earth do you think you will ever be able to sell your house. Few would intentionally move to an area that is famous for outrageous utility bills (coupled with one of the highest property tax rates know to man)
    We need better answers. We need responsible leadership that has an answer that involves a cure for over billing the the citizens of Lake Oswego. Be very assured that we will not learn to accept astronomical utility bills (as a part of living with past poor decision making. Funny that it is almost always someone else’s fault.)
    If city managers are struggling with finding an answer perhaps they might consider asking for help and ideas.
    We can and must fix this financially devastating issue least we are all swept down the drain. Pun intended.

    Jim

  2. Good point Jim. I’d suggest finding your water meter and then checking the readings against what is being reported as usage. Your usage and meter reading is shown at the top of each bill.

  3. As I live alone and have a relatively small grassed area on my lot that I irrigate, you can imagine my shock to receive a water bill for $252.86 in the month of September. In calling the City of Lake Oswego water department to inquire about the heavy bill I was basically blown off by a woman who answered the phone there. She told me to check for leaks and, no, despite a hefty bill, the city offers no such service. Well, good thing that at 77 years old I am still functional and was able to check my own water meter only to find I have no leaks. How can one woman use enough water to have a bill of $252.86?

    1. Barbara, the “fixed” portion of your bill is a big factor (mine was $105 this month) . So, if you used no water you would pay $105 a month. It isn’t so much your water usage as the increase in the fixed charges over the last few years.

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