Some Birch Bay water rates go up, others go down

Published on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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About one-third of Birch Bay Water and Sewer district customers will see decreases in their water bills under the 2011 water and sewer rates with a further 24 percent seeing increases of 2.4 percent or less.

Birch Bay Water and Sewer District board of commissioners voted 3-0 at their December 9 meeting to approve water and sewer rate changes for next year. Commissioner Don Montfort praised staff for all the work they put into developing the new rates.

“I think the results are better than I could have hoped for,” Montfort said.

The 2011 rates will boost fixed charges and increase rates at higher levels of usage while offering no per-usage charges for residents using 400 cubit feet of water or less over a two-month period, district general manager Roger Brown said. Once in place, 39 percent of customers will receive smaller bills, he noted.

Brown estimates the bill of an average water and sewer customer, using 900 cubic feet bimonthly, will drop 1.5 percent from $72.93 to $71.80.

The basic charges 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 rates will recover 68 percent of the district’s fixed costs while the current rate system recovers 56 percent.

The rate increases will mean a 3 percent increase in revenue, Brown said. The 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.

Water and sewer rates were upped in April 2009 by one percent across the board. The district historically changes rates every two years. Brown said the adjusted fixed charges will impact those who use the most water, thereby sending a strong water conservation message.