12/5/2017 1:34:00 PM City adopts new water/sewer rates
Some utility users in the city of Sisters will see bigger bills for water and sewer usage. However, low usage could result in reduced bills for others.
The findings of a recent rate study of the City water and sewer utility rates by FCS Group resulted in a recommended 2 percent increase in annual rate revenues for both sewer and water utilities, to reflect the actual cost of providing service.
The increase is driven primarily by capital funding requirements that the City has embedded in its utility rates. The proposed increases are also partially attributable to rising operating costs driven predominately by personnel services increases.
The water-rate study proposed changes in billing approaches resulting in the removal of the 1,000 cubic feet (c.f.) allowance currently built into the City's base rates. With this change, customers will pay the volume rate of $1 per 100 c.f. on all water usage. The current base rates will be reduced to account for the increased revenue from volume charges.
The change in billing approaches means that water customers will be paying for the actual amount of water they use, hopefully encouraging water conservation and allowing customers to impact their usage charges. Those whose consumption is low could conceivably see their water bill reduced.
The water-rate updates will take place January 1, 2018. As recommended by the study results, City Council established the following rates for water service. For five-eighth- and three-quarter-inch meters, the base charge will be reduced from $20.50 to $15.50. One- and one-and-a-half-inch meters will be charged a new base rate of $17.38, down from $23.09. Two-inch meters will have a base rate of $19.25 compared to the former rate of $25.58. All meters three inches and larger will be charged a $46.96 base rate, down from $62.40. All customers will be charged $1 per 100 c.f. for all water consumed, on top of their base rate.
The sewer rate study resulted in a change in the rate structure methodology. In the past, the City used the amount of water used in the winter months of January-March to determine a commercial user's average water use outside of the irrigation season, and thus their equivalent dwelling units (EDUs), which are the basis for sewer charges. The City Council adopted new sewer rates and expanded the "winter average" evaluation period to include October, November, December, and April.
The sewer rate updates of $37.77 per EDU will take place on July 1, 2018 and reflect a decrease of $1.23 a month. Each single residential dwelling is one EDU. The commercial EDUs are based on one EDU per 501.337 cubic feet of "winter average" water use.
Effective July 1, 2018, "winter average" shall be measured as average water use between the preceding November billing period through the April billing period. Effective July 1, 2019, "winter average" shall be measured as average water use between the preceding October billing period through the April billing period.
Prior to recommending the changes in the water and sewer rates to the Council, City staff met with the largest commercial customers who would be impacted by the changes to explain the study findings and the rationale for the necessary adjustments. Those users were generally understanding of the need to support infrastructure, according to Council President Nancy Connolly.
Connolly also pointed out the need for equity for residential users. "The changes will help offset the general public subsidizing the businesses."
Notification of the changes will be included in the December water and sewer bills from the City.