How to Nearly Double Sewer Rates without Ratepayer Revolt

In early 2005, the City of Indianapolis identified $435 million in stormwater and sanitary infrastructure needs for 2005-2008. In order to finance these projects, the city needed to raise sanitary sewer rates by 87 percent and stormwater rates by 80 percent over a three-year period. The Department of Public Works developed and implemented a public relations campaign to disseminate the messages and demonstrate the benefits of the rate increase. On October 31, 2005, after a successful campaign that generated widespread community support, the new rates were approved on a 25-3 vote by the City-County Council. Utilities throughout the United States are facing increasing regulatory and customer pressures to repair and upgrade their aging sewer and stormwater infrastructure. With little or no federal funding, local ratepayers must bear the burden of financing these infrastructure improvements. This paper provides a case study along with tried-and-tested techniques for a successful campaign to increase sewer and stormwater rates.

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