Sewer rates to increase in 2013

Along with the new year, East Baton Rouge Parish residents and businesses will see higher sewer fees in 2013.

Since Jan. 1, 2004, sewer fees have gone up 4 percent each year, said Mark LeBlanc, an assistant director for the city-parish Department of Public Works.

For an average household — which uses an average of 8,600 gallons of water per month — the sewer fee will go from $40.60 to $42.23 per month, Leblanc said.

“If a house uses less than 8,600 gallons, the volume charge won’t be as much,” LeBlanc said.

In 2004, after the increases went into effect, a home that used 8,600 gallons incurred a $29.67 charge, LeBlanc said.

There are 137,400 customers connected to the city-parish’s sewer system, about 101,600 of whom are residential customers, LeBlanc said.

The minimum charge will go from $17.21 to $17.90, LeBlanc said. To qualify for the minimum charge, a household must use 3,000 gallons or less, he said.

The charge for each additional 1,000 gallons over the minimum will go from $4.17 to $4.34, LeBlanc said.

The annual increase helps fund the city-parish’s Sanitary Sewer Overflow program, a $1.4-billion upgrade of the city-parish’s sewer infrastructure.

The city-parish also levies a half-cent sales tax for sewer system repairs and operations.

The parish is required to upgrade its sewer system under a federal consent decree, which is a settlement agreement contained in a court order. In 2003, the Metro Council approved the ordinance related to the effort. The SSO has a deadline of December 2014, though city-parish officials are negotiating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have that deadline extended until 2017 or 2018.

The project has $942 million in outstanding debt, LeBlanc said. The city-parish plans to issue another $45 million in bonds for the program in late January or February, he said.

The city-parish will pay about $60 million to bondholders in 2013, LeBlanc said.

The sewer fee is expected to generate $74.4 million in revenue in 2013, he said.