Come July 1, Lexington residents will pay more to flush toilets and take showers.
The Urban County Council voted 12-3 Tuesday to raise sewer rates over the next two years to pay for more than $590 million in sewer and stormwater system upgrades over the next decade that are part of the Environmental Protection Agency consent decree the city signed in 2008.
Under the proposal, the sewer bill for a Lexington household using an average of 4,000 gallons a month would jump from the current rate of $21.75 to $24.36 on July 1. The average bill would increase again — to $27.29 — on July 1, 2016.
The increases vary depending on average usage per month.
Council members who voted against the increase were Jennifer Scutchfield, Amanda Bledsoe and Fred Brown.
There was no debate on the measure during Tuesday evening's council meeting. During a Feb. 24 work session to discuss the proposed hike, many council members said the increase was unavoidable. If the city does not fix its ongoing stormwater issues, it could faces fines from the EPA.
This is the first major sewer rate increase in several years despite the city's ongoing efforts to rectify its stormwater problems that resulted in the EPA consent decree.
The council voted in 2008 to raise sewer fees by 48 percent. The rate then increased 35 percent the following year. Bills have risen only slightly since July 2011, when annual rate increases were tied to the consumer price index.
The city has spent $130 million since 2007 on projects to correct long-standing problems that led to overflows of the storm and sewer systems. But the city will spend even more during the next two years to comply with the agreement with the federal government. During that time, plans call for more than $265.5 million in capital projects.
To pay for the projects, the city will need $48 million in bond money over the next two years. The proposed rate increase will pay debt payments on the $48 million.
City officials have warned council members that an additional 12 percent increase in 2018 is possible.
The city has generated more than $3 million in savings on some of its stormwater improvement projects so far. The city hopes that savings trend will continue in coming years.