The board for the Bristol County Water Authority got down to the business of setting new water rates for all customers on Wednesday evening, Nov. 14.
After listening to a presentation from a consultant doing a water-rate study, the board decided that the current rate structure must go.
In its place will be a structure with a basic service charge, fewer usage tiers, separate rates for commercial/industrial and municipal users, and no discount for customers over age 65.
The current rate structure has a service charge, five usage tiers and the discounted rate for older customers.
The board selected from four alternatives, including maintaining the same rate structure. It opted to go with the alternative that Executive Director Pamela Marchand said “is the easiest to understand for customers. It’s much more straightforward.”
But, said Marchand, the final proposal should be based on the board’s preferences for its customers. Is conservation a major goal? Should businesses get a lower rate to make Bristol County water more attractive to them?
Chairman Allan Klepper of Barrington agreed with Marchand. Fewer tiers and separate rates for non-residential users seems like the best way to raise the revenue the board needs over the next five years while keeping rate increases to a minimum within the board’s “revenue plan.”
That plan calls for an immediate need for 12 percent more in revenue next year and then 16 percent more revenue over the following four years. The 16 percent boost over the latter four years is up from a previously announced 12 percent.
“There was a miscalculation,” Mark Champagne, finance manager for the BCWA, told the board. “The hikes each year should have been 12-4-4-4-4, not 12-3-3-3-3 as previously announced.”
Whatever the needs, the new rate structure and proposed rates should support the revenue plan, said Klepper.
“Do we have a consensus on the structure?” Klepper asked the board. “Not the details, but the structure?”
None of the board members objected.
“Then we can now work on the details within the structure,” he said, such as the individual rate hikes that will be necessary.
At this time, given the double-digit revenue need next year, it appears that the first-year rate hikes will have to be in double digits for everybody.
Michael R. Maker, the consultant with Municipal & Financial Services Group of Annapolis, Md., said that appears likely. Then the rates of increase should drop appreciably in each of the next four years.