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Water and sewer rates set to increase

Jan 24, 2024

By Beth Lawrence

Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority customers can expect changes in their water and sewer costs next fiscal year and a change in bill structure.

"Inflation and supply chain issues over the last year have had a large impact on our operations and capital improvements," Director Daniel Manring wrote in the budget message.

TWSA's projected operational budget is $5.3 million, growing by approximately $332,814 over last year's budget.

The board approved the budget at its May 23 meeting after a public hearing yielded no input.

The first change customers will see is an adjustment to the organization's billing structure. The minimum number of gallons for the authority's base rate will be lowered.

"That's a phased approach removing an included amount of gallons in a monthly minimum charge, so the industry standard is becoming for the minimum charge to just cover the availability of the service," Manring said. "And then the per-gallon charge is accurate to the amount of gallons that a customer uses, so the proposed rates are to phase out that allocated allotment that's included. Right now, in today's rates, they’re paying for 2,250 gallons whether they use it or not. The goal was for customers to pay for exactly the amount of gallons."

Payment for exact amounts is planned to be phased in over several years. The first phase is to reduce the current base amount.

The minimum rate of 2,250 will drop to 1,800 gallons of usage at $3.61 per gallon after that up to 50,000 gallons.

For amounts over 50,000, the rate will increase to $3.73 per gallon from $3.61.

System improvement charges will also increase to $1.44 per 1,000 gallons, up .7 cents from $1.37 for water and $1.46 per 1,000, up .9 cents from $1.37 for sewer.

A sample bill for a residential customer based on 5,000 gallons of usage would be $39.23 for water and $40.25 for sewer, totaling $79.48.

Business rates increase

Commercial rates will also change. The base rate will rise to $24.10 for water and $25.07 for sewer. Those rates are increased from last fiscal year's rate of $23.36 for each.

The cost per gallon of water for less than 50,000 gallons will become $3.61, and for amounts from 50,000 to 100,000 gallons, the rate increases to $3.88.

Minimum gallons for commercial users also decreased to 1,801 from the previous minimum of 2,251.

System improvement charges will rise for commercial customers. The new improvement fees will be $1.44 for water and $1.46 for sewer.

A sample commercial bill based on 15,000 gallons would be $93.35 for water and $95.02 for sewer for a total of $188.37.

"We’re transitioning our rate structure to better reflect the costs of providing sewer services versus water services," Manring said. "Traditionally our rates have been the same for water and sewer per gallon where both services are offered, but with the cost of sewer treatment being more than providing water, our rates are going to show that."

Higher cost

Personnel costs have increased in part due to a 3 percent pay increase, one added personnel position and increased insurance costs.

Additionally, the cost of chemicals required to process water and wastewater have increased over the past few years, as have utility, fuel and equipment costs along with costs associated with the authority's online payment system.

Manring projects to spend approximately $29,000 more on process chemicals in the coming year and $28,000 more on utilities.

"We’re getting hit really hard with process chemicals and that kind of stuff, over 20 percent increases in many cases on a few of our line items," Manring said. "Process chemicals, fuel and brass ... our parts and our fittings, those are the three main items that are seeing the biggest increase. Any pipe fittings really, it doesn't matter if they’re brass or plastic or ductile iron, they’re all way above your normal escalating factor per year."

The increases are being attributed to supply issues.

Positive changes

Customers planning to fill above ground pools will now be required to pay only for increased water usage. Sewer usage will no longer be charged since the water is not being processed through TWSA wastewater system because it goes into the pool and stays. There was previously no language in TWSA's guidelines to address the issue.

"If they notify us that they’re going to fill a pool, then we’ll go out and read meters and do a sewer deduction," Manring said.

Customers experiencing increased usage due to a leak previously could request a leak adjustment for sewer if they provided proof the leak was fixed, and the extra water did not enter the sewer system.

"We’re not having to treat the water; it didn't go into our system," Manring said. "So, we’ll do an adjustment."

However, the adjustment only applied to one bill. That rule has been refined. Now, if the leak spans two billing periods, the adjustment will apply to both months.

"It's something that has come up this year in a couple of cases, so why not make that a little clearer," Manring said.

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