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August 13, 2013

Norman residents will sound off on wastewater fee increase in November at the polls

NORMAN — Norman City Council members will choose among four proposed sewer rate increase options tonight.

On Monday, the council hosted a forum to gather public input. Only a handful of people attended the public meeting, and most of those residents regularly attend council meetings, have frequently voiced their opinions on the rate increase and are in communication via email and Facebook with their city council members.

The broader electorate’s opinions will not be known until voters hit the polls Nov. 12.

Monday night, no one seemed to be disputing that an increase is needed. The primary point under debate was whether to use $5.7 million currently in reserve from the temporary sewer sales tax that ran from Oct. 1, 2001, until Sept. 30, 2006.

Some say that money must be used in the future for a northside wastewater treatment plant. They point to a vote authorizing the use of that money for the plant.

Others say that the vote allows for the use but does not require the use of that money for a northside plant.

The difference in applying that money is less than 50 cents per average residential customer per month.

Four rate increase proposals are being considered, but most of them look very similar and would result in a rate increase of about $3 per average residential customer. All four proposals leave the base rate at $3.90 per month.

Norman is putting all of the rate increase on the commodity or usage side of the charge, which encourages water conservation.

But if people do a good job of conserving, it could make Norman’s ability to pay back debt less stable. That factor could mean slightly higher interest fees paid for bonds.

Reserving the $5.7 million in sewer sales tax could provide some stability and lower the interest rate a little.

All four of the proposals under consideration would raise the average household sewer bill about $3 per month, give or take 40 to 50 cents based on whether the $5.7 million in sewer sales tax is applied.

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