While Hillsboro's proposed water rate increases continue to draw public feedback, city officials are defending the rate hike, arguing that Hillsboro's water is still among the cheaper options in the Portland metro area.
This is the second year in a row that Hillsboro's Utilities Commission — which sets the fixed rate and usage rates for the city's water supply — has put forth proposed rate increases.
Officials say the new rates are necessary to pay for an expanding system, which includes new water infrastructure necessary to deliver drinking water from the Willamette River.
The proposed rate increases have not been formally approved yet, and there is a public hearing scheduled in October to discuss them further.
Under the proposed rates for 2023 and 2024, residential rates would increase by 8.8% for 2023 and another 8.9% in 2024. Hillsboro uses "a typical residential customer using 6,000 gallons a month" to determine the price increase of this as about $3.73 and $4.11 per month, respectively.
For multifamily residential properties, like apartment complexes, the rate increases would be 10.4% in both 2023 and 2024. Nonprofits and public entities would see their rates increase 10.4% in 2023 and 10.5% in 2024.
Commercial users would pay 10.6% more in 2023 and 10.5% more in 2024. Industrial users, fire protection agencies and irrigation districts would see rate increases of 10.5% both years under the proposed rates.
Hillsboro officials point to a table, available on the city's website, which shows Hillsboro's water costs in relation to other cities and water districts in the area. Hillsboro's rates remain in the middle of the pack, relative to Beaverton, Portland and the Tualatin Valley Water District.
"Even with the proposed water rate adjustments for 2023 and 2024 … the cost of Hillsboro's water would remain competitive with other water providers and below the regional average," said Lindsay Wochnick, the city's water department information officer.
The proposed hikes would not affect everyone in Hillsboro.
The city is divided between Hillsboro's own water supply and the water that comes from the regional Tualatin Valley Water District, which also serves thousands of customers in Aloha, Beaverton and Tigard. In Hillsboro, the water district serves properties east of Cornelius Pass Road (Highway 127) and north of Highway 26.
Currently, Hillsboro's drinking water comes from the Tualatin River, but the river isn't a big enough source to support future growth. Hillsboro estimates it will need twice the amount of water it currently uses in a few decades.
As such, a massive project has been underway to build new pipelines to a modified intake structure built in Wilsonville. It would connect to a new water treatment plant planned to be built in Sherwood, then provide treated water to Hillsboro, Beaverton and the Tualatin Valley Water District, the partners behind the project.
The proposed rate increases in Hillsboro, in part, will go toward the cost of financing the $1.6 billion Willamette Water Supply Project.
A community conversation to discuss the new rates is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19. A public hearing will also be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 3. Both chances for the public to weigh in and learn more will be held both in-person and virtually.
For those attending in person, arrive at Room 113 of the Hillsboro Civic Center, located 150 E. Main St. Find details to attend via Zoom online.
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