The Bristol County Water Authority board will be asking for feedback next week at a public hearing on a proposed 12 percent across-the-board rate hike for all users.
The hearing will be held in the Warren Town Hall on Thursday evening, Dec. 20. It starts at 6 pm.
To support the rate hike, the board will lay out its new 5-year strategic, financial and capital plans. It needs a significant increase in revenue over the next five years to accomplish those plans, which will upgrade the entire water system and create a backup supply.
The double-digit rate hike for the next fiscal year is just the first of more rate hikes to come. At this point in time, the capital plan calls for at least 12 percent more in revenue next year and 16 percent in additional revenue or 4 percent a year over the final four years of the plan.
The rate increases in subsequent years have yet to be determined, said Pamela Marchand, executive director of the water authority, and Allan Klepper, chairman of the board. They may not line up exactly with the annual boosts in revenue.
But the rates are expected to be significantly smaller in size after next year, with rate increases varying depending on the a rate design that will cut the number of individual tiers and do away with a senior discount.
The only certain rate hike is the 12 percent boost that will go before ratepayers at the public hearing next Thursday, Marchand and Klepper both said.
The board plans to explain exactly what needs to be done to the water system to keep distributing high-quality water and how it plans to do it and pay for it.
The board listened to a final report on Wednesday evening from the consultant hired to do a rate study, Municipal & Financial Services Group of Annapolis Md.
The consultant recommended the 12 percent rate hike while maintaining the current rate design for one year and then a 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 current rate structure has a service charge, five usage tiers and the discounted rate for older customers. The water authority’s current billing system, which is being replaced, simply cannot produce bills for the alternate design, said the consultants.
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.