Only On Fox: Possible MSD Rate Increases - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Only On Fox: Possible MSD Rate Increases

Louisville's Metropolitan Sewer District is facing two enormous challenges, comping up with a plan to keep sewage out of local streams and creating new treatment plant space. 

The total bill is enormous and, of course, MSD customers will end up paying it.  Fox 41's Dick Irby looked into the possiblities of huge rate increases on the way.

Bud Schardein, MSD Director told FOX 41's Dick Irby, "We're going to have to spend $800 million.  That's a lot of money."  State and federal agencies say sewer overflows which send sewage, toilet paper, condoms and other flushables into local streams must stop.

Last year, the MSD Board approved a new $6.95 monthly fee to build a fund to pay for the work as well as raising sewage and drainage fees by six-point-nine percent.

Ray Pierce, with Stop It says, "Our sewer bill is double what our water bill is and I'm very upset about it."  Paul Holliger also with Stop It says "That $6.95 could easily double, I would estimate, in five years."

Holliger and Pierce have spent two years looking into MSD's current and future financial situation.  They have formed an organization called STOP IT.  Stop Invisible Taxes to advocate more oversight over MSD.

Holliger and Pierce warn, with at least $800 billion in construction still ahead.  Last year's rate increases are just the start.  Schardein says, "We will have to raise our regular sewer rates about five percent and our drainage fee about five percent."

Schardein doesn't see a financial crisis ahead.  He says MSD bills will only go up about $1.30 a month next fiscal year.  But it appears holding the line in future years will not be easy.

Besides the huge sewer repair MSD plans to spend millions modernizing flood pumping stations on the Ohio River and expanding some sewage treatment plants. 

But Schardein believes MSD bills will remain affordable.  Schardein says, "I think, in four or five years, based on what we project, our customers will still be paying $50 or less a month."

Pierce believes MSD is living in a dream world.  He says other cities facing EPA ordered sewer repairs are struggling with rising costs and crushing debt.  Cincinnati has scheduled three years of 12% rate increases.  Pierce says, "Right now, if you ask me what I project in 2010-2011, I still think we're under $50 a month."

That's right.  MSD predicts three more years of modest rate hikes then falling rates.  No matter how it figures it.  Cincinnati's MSD sees at least 15 years of substantial increases before any leveling off.

Holliger claims MSD does not like to discuss the staggering bills it already owes.  Schardein told Irby MSD's total long term debt is "about $2 billion", the real figure listed in the annual report is $2.7 billion.

Add in costly sewer repairs and you can understand why some fear a sewer bill explosion.  Critics believe MSD has too much power and too little oversight.  But MSD does not believe it needs more outside supervision.

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