89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Louisville’s Sewer District Makes Another Push To Raise Rates

MSD sewer

The Metropolitan Sewer District is pushing again for a rate increase it says will help cover essential repairs to infrastructure projects around the city.

Metro Council’s budget committee could consider a proposal as soon as Thursday that would allow MSD to raise rates 10 percent annually over the next four years. It is an amendment to the existing ordinance, which caps annual rate increases at 6.9 percent without Council approval.

For the past two years, MSD officials have said they need $4.3 billion for a 20-year Critical Repair and Reinvestment Plan, which will address issues such as neighborhood flooding and preventing sewer collapses. One of these high-profile collapses happened in August: a sewer line installed at the intersection of Main and Hancock Streets in 1948 collapsed and shut the road for weeks.

Besides these capital needs, MSD’s budget is further stressed by a federal consent decree to reduce sewage overflows into the Ohio River. The agency says it has put about $400 million into the project over the past 10 years, and needs another $500 million to complete work by the end of 2024.

If approved, a 9.9 percent annual rate increase over the next four fiscal years would bring in an additional $71.4 million dollars, compared to the standard 6.9 percent increase, according to MSD figures. The hike would go into effect on Aug. 1, 2018.

MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott said in a statement the rate increase is necessary for fixing aspects of Louisville’s infrastructure.

“When you have systems that are stressed and systems that are aged, the first thing that happens is they start to leak and they start to collapse,” Parrott told WFPL in September. “And then the roadway which they sit under gets washed away and that cave-in occurs. We have to be out in front of those type of issues.”

Mayor Greg Fischer came out in support of the proposal last week, calling for bipartisan support of the measure. The rate hike proposal has appeared in various forms since 2016 — including a one-time 20 percent increase — but failed to gain traction with Metro Council.

“Protecting homes and businesses from flooding is essential for our citizens’ well-being, safety, and future economic growth,” Fischer said in a statement. “MSD leadership and its board have worked the past year to educate the public on the need for a significant investment in our flood protection system including upgrades to viaducts, aging sewer system and our water quality treatment centers.”

The proposed increase would add $5 a month to the average ratepayer’s bill, Fischer’s statement said. The amendment, which was filed Monday, is sponsored by District 4 Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, District 6 Councilman David James and District 20 Councilman Stuart Benson.