Columbia sewer connection fees will increase in October

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COLUMBIA - Residents and contractors in Missouri can expect higher sewer connection fees beginning next month.

The Columbia City Council approved its budget changes for the 2016 fiscal year Monday night. These changes included an increase in the current sewer system connection fees.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the increase in connection fees. These fees will soon cost $1,600 as opposed to $1,200 per unit.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said these changes were necessary to improve the expansion of the system.

"This money will help stimulate expansion in the system," Thomas said.

At the city council meeting Monday night, Mayor Bob McDavid stated higher connection fees can reduce growth.

City Manager Mike Matthes agreed and said, "We're the highest sewer connection rate in Missouri for cities, and we are going to go up. If you want less of something, you increase the price."

However, Thomas said he does not believe there is distinct evidence these increases in fees will hurt growth or expansion in Columbia.

"From the studies I have looked at there really is no conclusive evidence one way or the other that these higher fees would mean a decrease in growth," Thomas said.

Matthes said, "Both are valid points of view. We have that delicate balancing act of what is too much, because the mayor is right we don't want people to pay too much."

Both McDavid and Matthes cited social equity as a large issue in Columbia with poverty rates. However, Thomas said these higher connection fees will not hurt social equity. Thomas said the city should instead address social equity by helping to provide more affordable housing in Columbia.

The changes to connection fees go into effect Oct. 1.