Some say city bills are like Luke Air Force Base jets: They keep going up.
Indeed, at a Jan. 4 public meeting, Goodyear was to consider increasing utility rates by 21% over the next five years. (Results of the meeting were too late for this issue.)
The increases are proposed in a detailed presentation that justifies the need for residents to pay more—yet also shows Goodyear has far higher water rates than most comparison cities.
According to the city presentation, the Citizen Rate Committee recommended “smooth rate increases” and establishing a stormwater utility to pay for increasing costs of providing water, sewer and garbage services.
The city presentation stressed the rate-setting process included “public participation/input.”
But many who commented on West Valley View Facebook posts about the proposed Goodyear increases were not happy about current rates-—and furious over the proposed increases.
You might say they are dripping mad.
“Goodyear charges an obscene amount!” Adriana Greisman said.
Paula Gutierrez-Jones agreed: “Racket! More companies moving in getting tax breaks means more money out of regular Joe’s pockets.”
“My water bill doubled moving from Phoenix to Goodyear,” added Amy Jo Green.
“Goodyear charges too much and now they want to do a rate hike for the next 5 years! I think not!” Debbie Turnage wrote.
Several noted a recent West Valley View story on the city approving raises after reporting a solid financial position—including a $10 million boost from federal COVID-19 funding.
“They get a raise and $10 million from the feds for pandemic aid but they do nothing with that and they want to raise utility rates?” Wanda Hillmer complained.
“People are hurting with bills, jobs, health and you want a rate increase?” questioned Johnnie Johnson-Moreno. “Inconsiderate during a pandemic. And with a new pay increase for city (employees). Something wrong with that picture.”
Others questioned the timing.
“Yes, let’s raise rates when people aren’t working and losing their homes!” said Chuck Grow.
“Great timing during a pandemic and tons of unemployment and people losing their businesses,” added Barry Worman.
“We are in the middle of a global pandemic. A pandemic that affects/or has affected your constituents lives their finances, education, medical, mental/emotional well being. How are they to cope with raises in their utilities when they are combating with everything that is going on?” wondered RaeLeyn Williams.
Rationale for increases
To summarize Goodyear’s rationale for the increases in a word: growth.
In late 2019, Goodyear began construction of a $129 million water treatment plant. The project, scheduled to be operational in December 2021, will connect Goodyear to its Colorado River water allocation through the Salt River Project canal system.
The current system has a capacity for 16 million gallons of water per day—not enough for the city’s projected residential and commercial growth.
“We’re starting to estimate the cost of the operation of the facility,” Javier Setovich, Goodyear’s Public Works director, said in a November 2019 interview.
Months later, a presentation on proposed rate increases was given to Goodyear City Council. It stated rate hikes are partially demanded by “increase in total numbers of department personnel as the system continues to expand.”
Operating expenses for Goodyear utilities were projected to increase steadily over the next decade.
The presentation concluded with the reasons the higher bills for Goodyear residents are needed:
“Will result in a financially-healthy utility that has the ability to funds all its financial needs.
“Will ensure that new water treatment plant and $150 million in other water/wastewater CIP (capital improvement project) is adequately funded.”
Comparing the three cities, Avondale’s water is by far the least expensive, Goodyear second, Buckeye’s most expensive.
In Goodyear, a current monthly minimum “base” charge for most homes of $18.54 would increase to $19.28 Jan. 21, gradually increasing to $21.70 in 2025.
The volume rate per 1,000 gallons, up to 6,000, is $2.15 in Goodyear (doubling for 6,001 gallons through 12,000). That usage rate would increase to $2.24 this year, gradually increasing to $2.52 by 2025.
Wastewater charges of $23.78 for most homes would increase to $24.49 Jan. 21, then gradually increase to $28.11 by 2025.
In Avondale, water users pay an $11.87 “base charge,” then $1.21 per 1,000 gallons up to 4,000, with a $1.93 charge for 4,001 through 8,000 gallons.
The Avondale base charge per month for sewer/wastewater is $6.89, with a cost per thousand gallons of $4.04.
Buckeye’s water base rate for residential service is $32.94. Buckeye’s usage rate per 1,000 gallons is $3.93, up to 6,000 gallons, then $4.91 up to 10,000 gallons.
Last year, Buckeye added a $3 “repair and replace” fee to all water customer accounts.
The sewer/wastewater base rate in Buckeye is $28.86, with a usage fee of $2 per 1,000 gallons.
Tolleson’s base fee for water is $14 per month. Tolleson water users pay $12.85 for up to 3,000 gallons, then $3.72 for the next 7,000 gallons. The Tolleson sewer charge is $10 per month.
In Glendale, water users pay an $11.40 base fee, plus $2.66 per 1,000 gallons up to 6,000 gallons per month, then $3.33 per 1,000 gallons up to 15,000 gallons.
Glendale charges $4.37 per 1,000 gallons of wastewater.
Goodyear proposed increases
In Goodyear, proposed utility increases are 1.8% in 2021, 4.6% in 2022, 4.1% in 2023, 4.1% in 2024 and 4.8% in 2025.
A current $121.49 bill would increase to $123.66 in 2021 and $146.93 in 2025.
According to a presentation, “A typical city of Goodyear utility customer uses 7,000 gallons of water per month.”
Under the proposal, a current Goodyear water bill of $42.36 would increase to $44.84 this year, $47 in 2022, $49.20 in 2023, $51.43 in 2024 and $53.70 in 2025.
A Goodyear wastewater/sewer bill of $56.33 would increase to $58.02 this year and $66.58 in 2025.
Sanitation/garbage pickup would increase from $22.80 to $23.15 in 2025 (though it would dip for the years in between).
Added together, a typical Goodyear monthly utility bill of $121.49 would increase to $123.66 this year, $129.31 in 2022, $134.65 in 2023, $140.20 in 2024 and $146.93 in 2025.
Part of the increase would be a new stormwater fee of $1 this year, increasing to $2 in 2022 and $3.50 in 2025.
For most customers north of Interstate 10, the city of Goodyear currently provides sanitation services only. (Liberty Water provides their water.)
For them, typical monthly garbage bills of $22.80 will gradually increase to $26.65 by 2025—a 17% increase.
The Goodyear proposed rate increases were to help fund $143 million in capital projects over five years, including water meter and other equipment replacements and repairs.
Buckeye and Avondale do not have any rate increases scheduled this year.
“The city of Avondale is currently working with a rate consultant but does not, at this time, anticipate any rate increases,” said Alicia Schomer of the city of Avondale.