CHICAGO — The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District board signed off on a rate hike and on sending a $900 million bonding authorization to voters on the April 5 ballot.

If approved, proceeds of the bonds would fund the agency's ongoing capital program through 2020. The vote on Dec. 10 allows the agency's staff to work with the city and County Board of Elections to place the measure on the ballot next year, said district spokesman Lance LeComb.

A public rate setting commission endorsed increased rates and the bonding plan at a meeting July 30. The borrowing will help keep down the need for higher rate hikes.

The plan would set rates for 2017 to 2020 and provide funding for $1.5 billion in projects over those four years. They are part of a larger, $4.7 billion long-term infrastructure program of capital projects, many required under a 2012 consent decree struck with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The financial plan recommends senior lien debt issuance levels designed with the objective to maintain credit rating metrics consistent with strong credit ratings and in consideration of the district's operational and capital funding needs," the proposal says.

The plan relies on borrowing, service charges, grants, and state revolving fund support. If approved, the district doesn't intend to tap the new capacity until fiscal 2018 as borrowing authority remains from a $945 million authorization approved by voters in 2012. The district intends in fiscal 2016 to sell about $150 million of bonds and then $174 million in fiscal 2017.

The proposed plan going forward relies on issuance under the new authority of $216 million in 2018, $235 million in 2019, and $293 million in 2020.

Headed into the next stage of its capital program, MSD is proposing a shift in how its funds stormwater projects, which are separate from its wastewater program and voters will also be asked to approve the change.

The district has ratings of AA-plus from Fitch, Aa1 from Moody's Investors Service and AAA from Standard & Poor's. All three assign a stable outlook to the credit.

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