12% Water-Rate Boost to Go Public
The board of the Bristol County Water Authority will pitch its 12 percent rate hike for next year at a public hearing on Thursday evening, Dec. 20.
The Bristol County Water Authority board makes its case for a 12-percent across-the-board rate hike for all customers on Thursday evening, Dec. 20.
A public hearing will be held in the Mt. Hope High School cafeteria, where the meeting has been moved from the Warren Town Hall. It starts at 6 pm.
The board will lay out its new 5-year strategic, financial and capital plans to support the rate hike, which is seen as critical to raising the revenue needed over the next five years to accomplish those plans.
"We don't have to hold a public hearing," said Board Chairman Allan Klepper of Barrington, because the BCWA is not regulated by the state public utility commission.
But the board wants to lay out its plans for the next five years and get additional feedback from rate payers, he said.
Those plans call for an upgrade to the entire water system and the creation of a backup supply of water from Pawtucket through an interconnection with East Providence.
The double-digit rate hike is for the next fiscal year. Other smaller rates hikes of at least 4 percent a year over the final four years of the plan are also in the works. Together, the rate hikes when compounded mean about a 32 percent boost in rates through FY 2018.
The board plans to explain exactly what needs to be done to the water system to keep distributing high-quality water from the Scituate Reservoir and how it plans to do it and pay for it.
A rate study done by Municipal & Financial Services Group of Annapolis, Md., suggested the 12 percent rate hike while maintaining the current rate design for one more year, which includes a basic service charge, 5 user tiers, and a discount for customers over age 65.
The consultant then suggests switching to an alternative design that will include a basic serve charge, fewer usage tiers, separate rates for commercial/industrial and municipal users, and no discount for customers over age 65.
The consultant would have preferred adopting an alternate rate design right away. But the water authority’s current billing system, which is being replaced, simply cannot produce bills for the alternate design, consultants said.
BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand said she supports the overall recommendation because it is based on the “cost of service.”
Even with a 12 percent rate hike, though, the consultant estimated, a customer who uses 1,500 cubic feet of water a year will see only a $12.26 boost in cost under the current design. More or less usage of water, of course, will change that annual cost.