Although they dislike the idea, village council members know they will need to raise water and sewer rates for next year.

Although they dislike the idea, village council members know they will need to raise water and sewer rates for next year.

Village finance director Nanisa Osborn made a recommendation to council's finance committee June 1 for a possible three-percent rate hike.

"We certainly never want to increase rates," said council's Victor Paini. "But on the flipside of that, we have to keep fees in line with the services we offer."

The village water treatment and water reclamation facilities serve 2,516 commercial businesses and households in and outside the village.

Customers pay $5.41 for each 1,000 gallons of water and $4.79 for every 1,000 gallons used for outside sprinkler systems. They pay $5.39 for every 1,000 gallons of water treated for the sewer system up to 4,000 gallons. After the initial 4,000 gallons, the rate changes to $4.89 per every 1,000 gallons.

Osborn said council's service committee likely will see her recommendation for 2010 rates in September.

From there, the discussion will move back to finance committee and then to full council.

Osborn said if passed, the new rates will become effective in March.

Council last approved rate hikes for sewer and water in 2005 for the years of 2006-08.

"In 2009, there was no increase because of the country's economic condition," Osborn said. "Our ability to go multiple years without an increase is limited."

Also, she said in the past two years, the cost of chemicals for treating water has increased.

Water and sewer are enterprise operations in the village, meaning they are self-supporting and not part of the village's general fund, Osborn said.

"The goal is to break even," said council's Bruce Jarvis. "It's supposed to be a break-even proposition. It's not a moneymaking proposition."

He added council members have not been given any details on the need for an increase other than the recommendation from Osborn.

Paini said the perception can be that council members receive a recommendation and approve legislation without consideration of the public interest.

"That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "I'm a small-government, low-tax kind of guy. It's the reality. That's the part of offering the service."

Paini added that having self-sustaining water and sewer operations in the village "is actually a blessing" because residents do not rely on Fairfield County or the city of Columbus for those services.

As for the timing of the rate, "it's never the right time," said council's Bobbie Mershon.

"It has to be raised; that's a user fund," she said. "We have to keep it solvent one way or another. And it's not to fund our pay raise."