What could you do with $60 a month?
Fill up your gas tank. Take the family to a Rail Cats game and have a pretty
good time. Get yourself a few Porterhouses and a case of your favorite beer
and invite some friends over for a cookout.
Or you could simply sock the cash away and at the end of a year count $720
toward your vacation next summer.
These $60 a month are in the wind, down the drain, gone forever. Because
by year’s end--and dependent on IURC orders in two pending rate cases--$60
would be roughly equal to the accumulated monthly increases since 2002 in
the rates paid by the average Chesterton household for electricity, water,
sanitary sewer, stormwater quality enforcement, and refuse and recycling
As near as the Chesterton Tribune has been able to calculate, after a
search in the archives, the average Chesterton household paid a total of
$130.23 per month in 2002 for those services. A stormwater fee had not yet
been established. The 2002 monthly breakdown:
*Electricity (Northern Indiana Public Service Company or NIPSCO): $81.68.
Note: The bulk of a NIPSCO customer’s monthly bill--particularly
during the winter heating season--is comprised of natural gas costs, which
fluctuate from month to month in response to market conditions.
*Water (Indiana-American Water Company or IAWC): $18.30.
*Sanitary sewer (Chesterton Utility): $22.15.
*Refuse and recycling (under private contract with the Town of Chesterton):
*For a grand monthly total of $130.23.
By the end of this year, however, that monthly total could balloon to
$188.35 if the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission were to approve rate
increases sought by NIPSCO and IAWC, for an increase in only seven years of
$58.11 per month or fully 45 percent. The new monthly breakdown pending IURC
*Electricity: $94.44, an increase since 2002 of $12.75 per month or 16
*Water: $34.68, an increase since 2002 of $16.38 per month or 90 percent.
*Sanitary sewer: $38.63, an increase since 2002 of $16.48 per month or 74
*Stormwater or the so-called MS4 fee first enacted by the Chesterton Town
Council in 2005: currently at $6.10.
*Refuse and recycling: $14.50, an increase since 2002 of $6.40 per month or
*For a grand monthly total of $188.35, an increase of $58.11 per month or 45
NIPSCO, IAWC, the Chesterton Utility, and Able Disposal--the town’s current
and past trash contractor--have variously attributed rate increases to the
exploding cost of health insurance, of purchased power, and of fuel, on the
one hand, and to the need to maintain, repair, and upgrade critical
infrastructure, on the other. With the exception of NIPSCO--which has not
had a new electric rate order from the IURC since 1987 but does have one
pending now--IAWC, the Chesterton sanitary sewer and stormwater utilities,
and the town’s trash contractor have all implemented rate increases since
*IAWC: if the IURC were to approve the company’s latest request for a rate
increase, it would be the fifth since 2002.
*Sanitary sewer: four rate increases since 2002.
*Stormwater: a provisional monthly rate of $5 when originally established,
quickly increased to $6.10.
*Refuse and recycling: Able Disposal, under its three-year contracts, gets
an annual increase in the per home per month fee which it charges. That fee
is passed directly to residents with an additional markup by the town for
brush and leaf service. The town awards trash contracts to the lowest
responsive and responsible bidder.
Using figures compiled by InflationData.com--which runs inflation rates to
the hundredth of a percentage point for a slightly more refined result than
the one provided to a tenth of a point by the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics--the Tribune has calculated what the $130.23 monthly
household expense for utilities and municipal services in base year 2002
should have been at year’s end 2008 had it been subject to simple
*At year’s end 2003, with an inflation rate of 2.27 percent: $133.19.
*At year’s end 2004, with an inflation rate of 2.68 percent: $136.76.
*At year’s end 2005, with an inflation rate of 3.39 percent: $141.40.
*At year’s end 2006, with an inflation rate of 3.24 percent: $145.98.
*At year’s end 2007, with an inflation rate of 2.85 percent: $150.14.
*At year’s end 2008, with an inflation rate of 3.85 percent: $155.92.
(*In September 2009, with an average deflation rate through July of
-0.81 percent: $154.56.)
In short, under nothing but inflationary pressure, that monthly household
expense should have risen at year’s end 2008 by only $25.69 or 20 percent
and over the first seven months of this year should actually have dipped
marginally. In fact, the monthly household expense at year’s end
2009--pending IURC action--could well have increased by fully $58.12 or 45
percent: more than double the aggregate inflation rate since 2002.
Of course, utilities and municipal services--locked in by contract or
ordinance, in some cases regulated by the state, and unresponsive in the
short term to market forces--don’t work in quite the same way as do consumer
prices, which fluctuate constantly.
Nevertheless, it remains the fact that the average Chesterton household
could be seeing, going into 2010, a much bigger chunk of its monthly income
consumed by utilities and municipal services than was the case only a few