Public Hearing Set for Water Rate Increase

From the South Milwaukee Water Utility …

The South Milwaukee Water Utility has filed an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to increase water rates. A Public Hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. in the Public Service Commission Hearing Room, on the first floor of the Hill Farms State Office Building, 4288 Madison Yards Way, Madison, WI 53705.

Comments can be submitted for the hearing via the web, orally, written, or mailed (see attached notice above).

  • Water rates will be increasing in the near future.  The average residential user’s rate will increase approximately $12.00 per month (or $48 per trimester-billing cycle). This reflects a 38% increase.
  • The rate increase is due primarily to our required investment in a large infrastructure project, as well as increases in operating expenses (gas, electric, supplies, and personnel costs, etc.).
  • The large infrastructure project was the replacement of the clearwells that are located at the plant. The project is being constructed now and previously approved by the South Milwaukee Common Council. The Department of Natural Resources required this project as our previous clearwells were underground but current regulations require them to be above ground.
  • The rates will increase in two steps: The first step will be implemented as early as April 1, and the second step as early as August 1. The rates and implementation schedule are reviewed and determined by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), which is a state regulatory agency.
  • The last water rate increase of 3% was in 2013. PSC regulations dictate when the rates can be increased. Unfortunately, the regulations do not allow for incremental increases to avoid drastic increases.
  • With the increase, our water rates continue to remain competitive with other similar water utilities.
  • Lastly, please note this increase is in addition to a previously approved increase in the sewer rates, which has been reflected on most bills.  This increase was primarily used to fund the construction of a new lift station on North Chicago Avenue.

You can see more details on the water project here.


Filed under South Milwaukee

46 responses to “Public Hearing Set for Water Rate Increase

  1. Pug Johnson

    Time to join MMSD. This is unacceptable. You have to find the money elsewhere. I have a suggestion. Downtown redevelopment, There is a reason no one shops here. It’s wasted money. Also, this city’s incessant need for consultants. Saved you about $500K.

  2. Tammy

    The Public Meeting is held at 11am on a Wednesday in Madison…WOW…I’m pretty sure many of us South Milwaukee residents that will get stuck with this increase are working during that time and not near Madison. Something feels fishy about this like they really don’t want the public there to voice their opinions. Just my two cents

    • I, too, wish the Wisconsin PSC held their hearings at more reasonable times and locations. I will share that feedback with them. But there are other opportunities to weigh in for those who can not attend.

      • Tammy

        Understood but face to face is better in these cases as I doubt they will read all the others that come in via the web or mailed. Again, just my 2 cents. I also think a 38% increase is extremely high and think there are going to be a lot of South Milwaukee residents that are on fixed incomes that this will be a big burden on.

  3. donnamae landgraf


  4. Melanie

    Unreal, my last water bill for 2 people was close to 300.00.

  5. chris

    Does anyone know the email address for Madison to protest this request for additional rate increase. The last one at the end of last year was almost 60% and with this of 38% we will almost have an 100% increase. If anyone has a petition going please let us know. We need to get everyone involved in stopping this. I checked many cites at we are at the top for sewer and water rates in Wisconsin. And if anyone can check I think we are in the top 10% of all Wisconsin cities for property taxes.

  6. Cory

    I never complained about what my water bill was but to raise rates another 38% on top of the recent increase because of upgrades seems a bit ridiculous. Because my house roof needs to be replaced I couldn’t go to work and demand a 38% increase in pay to cover the new roof. It should be part of the saving for maintenance.

    • I wish the PSC allowed us to pass on reasonable rate increases annually to fund state-mandated projects vs. asking for large “all at once” increases after several years. They don’t allow that. I’d much rather pay for large capital expenses that way — and it’s why we’ve taken the approach we have with our sewer rates, of which the city has control of. Last year, the council passed small, automatic, annual increases, with the idea that this will reduce the need for a significant borrowing to fund upcoming large capital projects, when that time comes.

  7. Melanie

    Dear Mayor, could you tell us what the”c” onthe water bill means? Thanks.

  8. I am confused why the hearing is in Madison, and not in south Milwaukee?

    Sent from my iPhone


    • The Wisconsin Public Service Commission sets the hearings, as they ultimately approve or disapprove of any water rate increase. I agree; these hearings should be in the communities where the increase is being proposed. It’s feedback I’m going to provide to them.

  9. joanne olson

    it seems like its already been decided. april 1 first increase . i also notice the mayor is silent on the comment about seniors and how unaffordable it is for them and also silent on the comment on the extravagent spending for consultants and new city flags and on and on

    • I’m not “staying silent” on this at all. Of course, I’m concerned about the impact this increase will have on bills, including mine, and especially on those suffering financially. But we have to invest in our system, too.

      • Dee D

        Erik Brooks could you truthfully tell me what South Milwaukee receives from Cudahy for EMT services. Could you also respond to Dave Reszel’s Mar 6 comments. Seems I have the same concerns about each of issues

      • Cudahy does not fund our paramedic service for them — in other words, there is no annual levy support. We collect fees from individuals serviced, as we do in South Milwaukee.

  10. SM Guy

    Lots of comments above on the location and timing of the PSC hearing. That’s fine to say as far as it goes, but why does it even need to be said? Basically, people at this hearing would be asking the state government to put the clamps on the local government after, apparently, the local government already made its decision. Why? Why wasn’t there a local hearing before it even got to the state level? I mean a well publicized hearing (as is being done here). Not some statement that commission meetings are always open.

  11. SM Guy

    Second question. Why is the utility allowed to run independently without an elected official specifically taking the credit or blame for these types of decisions? Like maybe an elected “utility board” who could then justify their decisions at the next election?

  12. Rocket Mom

    I prefer SM to keep an independent Water Utility.
    We then keep control over our water source. If a new business (such as a Brewery) comes into SM (who may need vast amounts of water), we’ll be able to control it.

    Remember Cryptosporidium outbreak of 1993 in Milwaukee? Well, because of our independent water source, South Milwaukee did not have it. This is short-term pain for a long term gain. Thanks for all the great information, Mr. Mayor.

    • Melanie

      That was 25 years ago, it hasn’t happened since, considering all the poo they dump into the lake, it’s really not too bad a record.

  13. Dave Reszel

    While I can understand the need to comply with new regulations and standards at our facilities, my frustration lies in the “double whammy” that tax payers are facing. It is ridiculous to have these % increases back to back. My concern is that once the new lift station is completed AND subsequently paid for, will our rates go DOWN ……since this is after all a one time expense? Also, and again, once the above ground improvements have been made and paid for at sometime in the future, will that increase of today also go away? Unfortunately, we all know these answers! Similar situation with our SM high school debt which will be retired in a few years. Instead of “tax relief” to homeowners it is being packaged with a new SM school spending iniative. Lesson learned, once an increase takes place, it is never rescinded! Maybe if the city of Cudahy actually paid us for providing their EMT services instead of giving us a big fat ZERO ( in fairness with get a small amount from Milwaukee County and we can “try” to collect the user fee from the individuals getting the service but together they come nowhere close to covering our costs – staffing and equipment – of providing in essence FREE EMT SERVICES to Cudahy residents!) It is long overdue that the city of Cudahy pay us at a 100% rate for EMT services. Why should South Milwaukee taxpayers be burdened with giving substantially free services to Cudahy residents? Maybe if they ( Cudahy paid us) those dollars could offset some these huge tax and fee increases from our water facility and school referendum and make these increases more in line. I get that there is a need to have the upgrades, and small tax and fee adjustments increases are sometimes necessary for the “greater good of South Milwaukee”. But these are all over the top ridiculous. We need our elected officials to lead and do the right thing for ALL SM taxpayers, otherwise we will have to replace them with leaders who will !!!

    • The water increase is both for the the capital project and operational costs, as usage continues to decline and operating costs go up, putting more pressure on ratepayers. That’s just math. Will rates ever go down? You’re right, likely not. But it’s a good question you raise — what happens when the debt is retired in 20 years? I will find out. I can’t control school funding but I know they face the same challenges we do at a high level — significant state restrictions on revenues that do not reflect the cost of providing services expected of us. Our system to fund government is broken, and these “one-off” efforts to raise revenue, while necessary, are reflective of that.

  14. Melanie

    It does seem like we have had a lot of tax increases from referendums and fees. Where does it end?

  15. Ginger

    A 38% increase for a single infrastructure project, on top of an already approved sewer increase, seems like a management problem. There would have to be some notice from the DNR to need this project and budget for it. Public departments have gotten away from budgeting with what they have and far too dependent on just increasing taxes to cover expenses. Is there a budget document that can be posted so we can see where a increase of over 1/3 is going? It seems like there is a lack of city leadership involved. And how about the few running the meeting in Madison come to the city to allow the thousands of residents to speak up without taking a whole day off of work.

  16. This increase is wages never get a 38% increase…how are all the retired people or others on fixed income supposed to pay this type of increase…average 150 a year…maybe a 3 or at most 5% but 38% is not acceptable to anyone.

  17. Dee D

    Erik Brooks thank you for your quick reply on my comment. If you could, once again, please tell me this. Is the total cost of SM EMT services covered by Cudahy and So Milwaukee residents needing assistance ?

  18. Dee D

    I looked at the paramedic funding referendum and I’m still looking for answers. Does Cudahy and South Milwaukee share the TOTAL cost of paramedic services EQUALLY??

    • Cudahy does not support us providing paramedic services with tax levy or other city government funding. We receive fees paid by Cudahy residents when they use the ALS service. This has its legacy, and was put in writing I believe, decades ago when Med 10 was founded — at that time serving four South Shore communities.

  19. DeeD

    Erik Brooks, I believe that any city using the paramedic services from South Milwaukee should, also, be sharing some of the South Milwaukee taxpayers cost.

  20. Melissa Graff

    Erik Brooks,
    As a newer homeowner and resident of South Milwaukee, I am very concerned about the increase in sewer rates along with a proposal to also increase water rates. As I am sure you have heard by many, this is going to create a financial hardship for many in the community, especially those on a fixed income. My current bill was $300 for a family of 4! And to think my bill will only get higher if it is approved to increase the water rates. In speaking with the South Milwaukee Water Utility, I was told that it was pretty much a done deal to increase the water rates. So much for the input of the residents as to the burden this will cause for many!

    With that being said, I was also told by the South Milwaukee Water Utility that the project has already been done and that they are looking to recoup the funds now. What is the projected timeline that we are facing as far as dealing with the increases on our water/sewer bill? At some point, is it going to go down again?

    As a parent of two little ones (ages 2 1/2 and 5) that enjoy summer and all water related activities, this is really going to put a damper on that.

    Please be honest and share any facts about my concerns as I feel to know exactly what is going on. My husband and I aren’t happy about the current situation and may face a decision later on about living in South Milwaukee long-term or not. Any and all feedback would be appreciated.

    • Melissa: I share your concerns and know this will be a hardship for many in our community. My wife even complained to me the other day. But the capital project — the primary reason for the increase — is a state-mandated investment in our facility. And the reality of declining usage, especially with larger manufacturing customers like Caterpillar over time, is also real, and is also driving this. To be clear, this is not a done deal. The PSC must approve all rate increases, and the hearing is actually today. There are other ways to offer feedback, too. To your other question, the rate increase will pay back the 20-year borrowing we are doing to pay for the utility project. Will rates go down in 20 years once it is paid off? I guess we will see then, but it is unlikely.

  21. DeeD

    Has there been any info on the PSC meeting in Madison? Anxious to know what outcome was for SM residents. Just a thought, does anyone think that we need to have our city revisit the paramedic services costs received from Cudahy? SM only receives money from Cudahy residents that have used the services. No other costs are collected. A new agreement could maybe help with water costs. Curious why city isn’t looking for other means to help pay for the never ending new water facility costs. What building never gets paid for.

  22. DeeD

    Still in the dark on what the outcome was regarding the PSC meeting in Madison. Can anybody enlighten me? Have asked Mayor Brooks but have not received a reply.

    • I will let you know as soon as I know. I don’t think decisions are immediate, after a hearing. Please remember that this decision is made by the state Public Service Commission. We petition them for the increase, so it’s their timeline.

  23. Melai

    I don’t understand how projects are done and then paid for by the taxpayers, shouldn’t it be the other way around?

  24. Melanie

    I don’t understand how projects are done and then paid for by the taxpayers, shouldn’t it be the other way around?

  25. Melanie

    I have figured out many ways to conserve water for those interested, but it will probably raise our rates in the future. Here are some of my ideas. Start washing our clothes on a rock in the creek, like my gramma from Italy did. Don’t flush your toilet till the 3rd time you use it. Stop washing your hands so much. There is plenty of good bacteria. Use only disposable plates, cups, etc. when eating. No more washing dishes. You can email me anytime if you need more suggestions. We have to work together as a community.

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