YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Next Wednesday, Youngstown City Council will vote on raising sewage rates 4% a year for the next five years.
Currently, the average homeowner in Youngstown pays $78 a month. With 4% increases over the next five years, the same average homeowner by 2024 will be paying $95 a month.
But it’s not just in Youngstown, others in Mahoning and Trumbull counties may pay more, too.
At a meeting Thursday night, Michael Abourserhal, the financial consultant hired to help the city of Youngstown, told city council members what they knew was coming.
“I’m recommending to the city, an annual rate increase of 4% for the wastewater fund effective January of 2020,” he said.
The increase is to pay for phase one of the EPA-mandated work being done at the sewage treatment plant on Poland Avenue. Without it, there would be a $3.4 million deficit in the wastewater fund next year and $16.4 million by 2024.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown said he’s also looking to renegotiate contracts with both the Mahoning and Trumbull County sanitary districts, for treating some of their sewage.
“I believe if we’re going to ask our citizens for an increase, we want those two counties to pay their fair share,” Brown said.
Phase one will cost $100 million in principal and interest, but there’s still phase two and three.
“Well, phase two and three still have to be paid for. So are we going to come back and raise that 4% again?” asked Youngstown City Council President Demain Kitchen.
Abourserhal said yes.
The entire cost of the three-phase project is expected to be $160 million. So, there will likely be further sewage rate increases after five years — a concept that made councilwoman Lauren McNally angry.
“The state and federal government literally set us up to fail and it’s ridiculous that nobody is willing to help us. They just tell you they can’t help us?” she said.
“They’ll put unfunded mandates on you and then you’ll have to figure out how to pay for it,” Brown said.
Five of the seven council members were at the meeting, none of which said if they were for or against the rate increase.