Boise City Staff Recommending Sewer, Trash Rate Increases

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Treating wastewater doesn't come cheap.

That's why the Boise Public Works Commission is considering a 5 percent increase in sewer rates.

In August 2011, Boise Weekly examined new guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically alter phosphorous levels and water temperatures in and near the city's water treatment facilities.

Under new permits, issued by EPA in March 2012, Boise officials promised the EPA to limit mercury and ammonia discharges and release cooler water from treatment plants into the Boise River. Additionally, Boise needs to bring its phosphorous discharges down from approximately 1,100 pounds per day to approximately 15 pounds daily.

"Our permits have never had a limit on phosphorous before," Paul Woods, Boise's Environmental Division manager, told BW. "This is brand new, and it's a very big issue."

And in an April 5, 2013 memo to the city's Public Works Commission from Public Works Administration Manager Heather Buchanan, revenues are not covering expenses for the city's sewer fund.

"Staff recommends a 5 percent rate increase in [fiscal years 2014 and 2015] to generate $1.2 million base annually," wrote Buchanan. "These numbers may change, hopefully for the better."

In the same internal memo, Public Works staff pointed to a projected net operating deficit in the city's solid waste (trash) fund of $534,380 in FY 2014.

"To bring expenditures and revenues back into alignment, staff recommends a 4 percent rate increase in FY 2014 to cover the shortfall," wrote Buchanan.

Public Works staff recommended no rate change for the city's geothermal fund.

The Boise City Council will have the ultimate say in any possible rate increases.

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