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With New Fiscal Year, Sewage Fees Increase for Imperial Beach Residents, Businesses

IB residents and businesses will see the 1.19 percent in sewage fees in their property taxes. The money is necessary to shore up an aging sewage system and rising costs, city officials said.

A 1.19 percent increase in sewage fees went into effect July 1 in Imperial Beach with the start of the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The new fee applies to all residential and non-residential water customers within city limits that discharge sewage into pipes maintained by the city. A letter explaining the increase was sent out this spring.

Property renters may also be asked to pay more, depending on the agreement they have with their landlord.

A 2005 city ordinance called for rates to change this year according to Consumer Price Index standards.

For a single family homes the rate has been capped at $836.96. The fee will appear in property taxes.

IB resident Rose Harris is a single mother who said she is struggling to make ends meet and is completely against the fee.

Many people have been struggling to make ends meet with the economy and one more bill hurts, she said.

“It’s not easy for working people, especially single mothers like myself who struggle just to pay the bills now,” Harris said. “I do not need another bill to worry about.”

The rise in sewage fees was approved in a May 4 City Council meeting. At that time, the city had received eight written objections and a telephone call objecting to the increase.

The increase is necessary to address increases in sewer water treatment costs, said Finance Department director Michael McGrane.

“The money would be used towards the $2.3 million it takes to treat our water, including maintenance and repairs in our sewer system,” he said.

The bill for the last quarters was nearly $100,000 over the average bill, which has now put the total cost to nearly $2.4 million annually, McGrane said.

“It takes a lot to keep up the sewers especially maintenance in pipes that are over 50 years old,” he said. “Clean water is so important to this community and if we do not want sewer waste to go into our ocean, we need to maintain the sewage lines.”

City Manager Gary Brown said it was right in line with the consumer price index and the fee is necessary to keep sufficient funds in the sewer system.

“The fee would help handle repairs and in case an emergency comes,” he said. “Right now, if we had a disaster in the sewage line we would not have enough funds to cover it.”

“We are just trying to keep a balance between having a decent reserve fund and not changing very much for members of the community,” he said.

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