Local & Regional
4:17 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Three Tulsa Utility Rate Increases Proposed

Debt and aging infrastructure are two main drivers of proposed utility increases for Tulsa. Some of those infrastructure problems were apparent earlier this year as the city worked to repair hundreds of water main breaks.
Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsans may see their city utility bills go up in October.

There are three proposed increases: 7 percent for water, 9.75 percent for sewer and between 6 and 9 percent for storm water. Water and sewer rates have increased each of the last six years while storm water rates have not.

Streets and Storm Water Director Roy Teeters said the rate increases are needed to deal with a big problem.

"All the utilities are all in the same situation," Teeters said. "It's aging infrastructure and increased cost to maintain that aging infrastructure."

The average Tulsa family would see a $5 increase to its monthly water and sewer costs if the increases are approved.

Additionally, the Water and Sewer Department proposed rate increases each year for the next five years. Water rates would go up seven percent this year and each year through 2018. Sewer rates would go up 9.75 percent this year and 9 percent each year thereafter.

Department Director Clayton Edwards said there are several reasons for the rate increases, but debt is a big one.

"If we don't pass these rate increases, then we are at risk of defaulting on some of our bonds and loans, so it's critical that we pass these rate increases," Edwards said.

Tulsa’s sewer debt ratio is 39 percent. A national cutoff for the bottom 25 percent of cities is 33 percent.