Public comment sought on Birch Bay rate hikes

Published on Wed, Dec 1, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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Birch Bay residents will get the chance to make their voices heard at the next Birch Bay Water and Sewer District Board of Commissioners meeting when the board discusses proposed water and sewer rate changes.

The board will hold a public comment period on proposed rate changes at their regular board meeting on Thursday, December 9. The changes take into account district staff’s consideration of the district’s financial needs for 2011, district general manager Roger Brown said.

The proposed 2011 rates will boost basic and meter charges and increase rates at higher levels of usage while offering no per-cubic-foot charges for residents using 400 cubit feet of water or less over a two-month period, Brown said. With the proposed rates in place, 39 percent of customers are projected to receive decreased bills while 24 percent would see bill increases of 2.4 percent or less, he noted.

“This approach reduces the impact on low to moderate users,” Brown said.

Brown estimates the bill of an average water and sewer customer, using 900 cubic feet bimonthly, will decrease 1.5 percent; a shift from the current amount of $72.93 to $71.80.

The basic and meter charges, called fixed charges, pay for the district’s ability to provide water and sewer service on demand and are not dependent on a customer’s level of usage, Brown said. The proposed fees will collect more revenue in the form of fixed charges to more accurately reflect the district’s fixed expenses, which represent 86 percent of all expenses, he explained.
The proposed rates will recover 68 percent of the district’s fixed costs while the current rate system recovers 56 percent.

The proposed rate increases will mean a 3 percent increase in revenue for the district, Brown said. The revenue increase takes into account inflation since the last rate increase and will support planned capital projects, such as sewer pump station enhancements and upgrades to existing water lines.

The district increased water and sewer rates in April 2009 by one percent across the board. Brown said the board of commissioners implements rate changes about every two years to reflect the changing economy and the district’s changing financial needs.

At the board’s November 10 meeting, Brown presented two additional rate change programs alongside the one the board will consider on December 9. The two other programs proposed phased rate increases over three and five years, respectively. Brown recommended the current proposal because it has the lowest impact on moderate users and it represents the most equitable recovery of fixed costs.

The December 9 board meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. at the district offices at 7096 Point Whitehorn Road in Birch Bay.