Utility Rate Adjustment

Wastewater
    Background

The Noblesville Common Council unanimously voted to amend the city's wastewater and trash fee ordinances to set the following rates for the next 4 years:

Category

New Monthly Rate*

Dollar Amount Increase

Wastewater

$46.13

$4.35

Trash

$13.85

$2.91

Total Combined Bill

$59.98

$7.26

*New rates begin September 1, 2020.

The new rate is based on recommendations from the analysis performed by Baker Tilly, Noblesville Utilities financial advisor. Baker Tilly performed a Rate Study to advise the city on a just and equitable fee.

Using this "Set It & Forget It" approach would avoid having an annual rate/fee increase and provides a savings over the traditional step-up rate over the same time period.

Click here to learn more about the city's discount and hardship programs.

    Capital Improvement Projects

In addition to the new, negotiated trash fee, the utility rate increase is due to capital projects Noblesville Utilities Director Ray Thompson and his team, in coordination with the Mayor’s Office, have identified as being necessary to maintain and enhance Noblesville’s wastewater infrastructure and effectively handle current flows while making preparations and investments to address growth:

  • Phase V of the Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP)
  • Reconstruction of Stoney Creek Lift Station (LS2)
  • Renovations to Little Chicago Road Lift Station (LS9)

These projects are estimated to cost a total of approximately $23M, which includes construction, contingency, engineering, and bond issuance expenses. These projects would be paid for in part with a bond that is planned for issuance late summer/early fall, with marginal rate adjustment revenues being used to pay debt service for the bond.

    Questions & Answers
    • A) The city’s wastewater rate ordinance (section 51.03) was last amended in 2017. The city’s trash fee ordinance (section 91.06) was established and last updated in 2016.
    • A) As the oldest city in Hamilton County, Noblesville is the only community in the county that has Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) pipes. This system was constructed over a 100 years ago in our downtown area. The federal government made CSO communities like ours create plans to curb the overflow of raw sewage from combined sewers into waterways. Since the start of our Long Term Control Plan, we have been able to separate storm water and sanitary flow, and improve drainage in low areas. This also has resulted in cleaner water in the White River and more recreational activity in that amenity. 

    • Every 5 years, Noblesville Utilities has to renew its permits with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The most recent renewal was in 2016 and required monitoring and treatment plant modification to remove phosphorus. That work earned the city an exemplary engineering achievement recognition award at the American Council of Engineering Companies’ 53rd annual Engineering Excellence Awards.
    • A) Mayor Jensen favors a rate/fee setting approach wherein service expenses and project costs are determined and estimated over a four-year period, with associated rate adjustments being made to produce a rate that covers those costs and necessary reserve requirements and remains constant over the four-year timeframe. This approach, in our view, is more transparent and means that citizens do not have to make yearly (upward) monthly budget changes. This approach also provides a longer period of time to build necessary reserves for significant capital projects and to assess the overall effectiveness of the rate-setting determination as it relates to annual operating costs.
    • A) As a renter, you should not be billed directly from Noblesville Utilities. Per city ordinance, the homeowner listed with Hamilton County is who receives the bill. If you signed a lease stating the renter is responsible for the bill please contact us so we can make the owner aware. This also applies to multi-family accounts such as homes with multiple apartments and apartment complexes. 
    • A) A lift station is used to pump wastewater or sewage from a low level to a higher level when the gradient of the area does not allow for a natural flow. The city has 23 lift stations to help carry flow from all the homes connected to our utilities to the Noblesville Treatment Plant.

      The reconstruction of the Stony Creek Lift Station is estimated to cost approximately $13M. This lift station was installed in the 1970s and it needs to be replaced due to its age and required maintenance. This also allows the city to run a new force main pipe to the treatment plant and increase the capacity of that station.

    • How Sewer Works
    Cost Comparison

Cost Comparison

  • BakerTilly compared figures for monthly charges passed on to residents by 13 Central Indiana cities and towns comparable to Noblesville. Currently, Noblesville rates are 4th lowest out of 13 for wastewater/storm water rates; and are 3rd lowest out of 13 for combined wastewater/storm water and trash fees. Even with the recommended increases, Noblesville would remain in the bottom half of the selected municipalities.

  • At the beginning of implementation of the Long Term Control Plan, BakerTilly projected that estimated user rates upon completion of the LTCP in 2022 would be $66.93 per month. Through four of the five phases, Noblesville has been able to keep rates much lower than initially projected - current monthly residential rate is $41.78 per month, which is on par or lower than other communities that have not had to spend $60M on unfunded mandates.

  • The city is doing everything within our power to keep rates as manageable as possible. Noblesville is one of a few utilities in the state with a AA bond rating. This helps us secure lower interest rates. The city also is using $10M out of the utilities cash reserves to lower the bond amount, which lowers the residential rates as well.
    Long Term Control Plan

LTCP

The Long Term Control Plan is an unfunded mandate that was approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on June 26, 2007. It is a 15-year plan that consists of nine individual projects conducted in five different phases.

  • Phase I (2006-2007) – Upsized existing interceptors, replaced failed sanitary sewers in North Harbour and made treatment plant upgrades at headworks building and wet-weather equalization storage.

  • Phase II (2007-2013) – Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Expansion project involved the construction of two new secondary clarifiers, two new aeration basins, and a new disinfection system. The daily treatment capacity doubled from 5 to 10 million gallons per day and the peak wet weather capacity from 10 to 20 million gallons per day.

  • Phase III (2009-2016) – Central and East Region Relief Sewer and Riverwalk Trail. Installed large diameter relief sewers to convey wet-weather flow to the treatment plant storage facility. While reestablishing the grounds over the relief sewer, the city constructed the new Riverwalk Trail on top of it along the river.

  • Phase IV (2015-2018) – Construct storm sewers in combined areas in the northern Old Town area to reduce combined sewage from reaching waterways by separating storm water and sanitary lines. Roads impacted were repaved.

  • Phase V (2020-2022) – Similar to Phase IV, but for the southern portion of Old Town to decrease storm water to the treatment plant and improve drainage in low areas of Conner, Logan and Clinton streets.
    Discounts Available 

Noblesville residents may be eligible for discounts on their property taxes and city utility bills. Before a deduction takes place at the city level, a property tax deduction claim has to be filed and approved by the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office. Once a deduction has been filed with the county auditor’s office, you do not need to refile unless there is a new mortgage, a deed change on the home, or the property has been put into a trust.

  • NOBLESVILLE UTILITIES DISCOUNT
    A $12 credit per month is available to owner/occupants. To be eligible for the reduced rate customers must have one of the following exemptions on their property taxes (filed with the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office): over 65 age deduction, blind and disabled deduction, or disabled veteran or surviving spouse deduction.


  • TRASH FEE DISCOUNT
    Noblesville Utilities customers who receive a $12 credit per month on their monthly sewer bill also receive a 50% discount on their trash fee. There are no additional forms to fill out or file.

  • The $10 credit increased to $12 when new rates went into effect on September 1, 2020.

Residents will be given these discounts once their claims have been approved by the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office, and the residents bring a copy of the approved claim to Noblesville Utilities. Noblesville Utilities office is located at 197 Washington Street with operating hours Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information on discounts, click here.

    Hardship Program

As part of the revised ordinance, the Noblesville Common Council has added a provision that hardship credits may be initially granted during a public health emergency or during a year in which a public health emergency has been declared. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic hardship credit has been created for any owner-occupant of an eligible residential dwelling unit who meets the program criteria. The hardship credit takes $15 off of the new $46.13 wastewater rate (for a hardship rate of $31.13).  For trash bills, it takes 50% off of the new $13.85 fee (for a hardship fee of $6.93). The total bill for those who qualify for hardship would be $38.06.

To be granted a hardship credit, an owner-occupant must provide documentation to the Noblesville Utilities Department that they have filed for any of the following (and must affirm under penalties of perjury that the filing related to economic conditions caused in part by the public health emergency):

                        (a) Unemployment with the state Department of Workforce Development;

                        (b) Hardship accommodation with the Indiana Department of Revenue;

                        (c) Financial assistance with the township trustee; or

                        (d) Energy assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

This program runs six (6) months starting with the September utility bill (and would run through the February utility bill). 

    Trash Fee Rate

Republic Services

  • Noblesville currently pays its trash vendor, Republic Services, $12.00 per month per house for residential trash collection services. The city is paying approximately $550,000 annually of General Fund dollars to address the debt gap.

  • The city issued a request for bid proposals earlier this year as our current contract expired on May 31, and Republic Waste Services was the lowest responsible bidder.

  • The city's 4-year average monthly cost for providing residential trash collection services is $13.85. 

  • By keeping Republic Services, Noblesville residents will see no change in their weekly trash pick-up dates or services. 

  • Although the ultimate impact will depend on the commodities market, Noblesville is the among the first communities in the state to negotiate a profit-sharing component with Republic for our recyclables collected.

  • In order to make this program a real success, it is essential that only acceptable recyclable material is placed in your recycle cart. Currently, Noblesville's recycle stream contamination level sits at 40%. For simple and easy ways to make a difference in our community and become a better recycler, click here for recycling basics, tips, resources, videos and activities.
    Additional Resources

Citizens Energy Group customers may be eligible to receive an additional $350 in assistance. If you were approved for the Energy Assistance Program and your household experienced job loss or significant reduction in hours due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the one-time CARES Act Benefit. To learn more, click here.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced the Indiana COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program, which will use $25 million in federal CARES Act funding to help Hoosiers struggling to pay rent due to the impact of COVID-19. The program will provide up to $500 in assistance for four months, totaling a maximum of $2,000 in assistance to eligible renters to help cover past and ongoing rent payments or late fees. Rental assistance through this program is available to residents in all Indiana counties. To be eligible, renters must meet the following criteria:

  • Lost their job or part of their income due to COVID-19.
  • Current household income, including unemployment, is less than the household income on March 6.
  • Have not received rental assistance from another source.

Approximately 12,000 Indiana households could be helped. Payments will be made directly to the landlord, and the landlord must agree to participate. Applications will be accepted online beginning at 9 a.m. on July 13 at www.indianahousingnow.org.

In the meantime, if they have not done so already, renters should speak with their property manager if they are unable to make their payments. Additional resources can be found in the state’s Coronavirus Eviction & Foreclosure Prevention Guide.

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