Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rates & progress

If you have been paying attention lately, one thing is clear. Water and sewer rates are going to have to go up. We may be lucky and get state or federal assistance to fix our infrastructure. We must get creative and figure out how to use the 4b sales tax to pay for some repairs where appropriate and legal, but in the end the rates will have to go up. The only question left is how do you raise the rates.

A flat, $15.00 per meter increase is too simplistic. It's not equitable and it's very regressive. To use a very overworked term, it isn't fair.

There is a strong case for putting at least the majority of the increase into the meter charge or a separate capital fund charge on the water bill. It makes sense to have capital projects paid for by the fixed part of the bill, but make sure that the meter charge is raised proportionally. At the current rate and a $15.00 increase, a 5/8" meter users rate would rise from $10.08 to $25.08, an increase of 149%. An 8" meter users rate would go from $136.03 to $151.03, an increase of only 11%. A Rough estimate tells me that a 140% to 145% increase on all the meters would still raise the same money, with a more equal distribution of the capital repair costs, and a savings to the smaller user of $.30 to $.60. Not a lot but significant to those on a fixed income.

There are probably other questions that need to be asked about how to do this rate. I will grant that prior rate increases were too heavy on the per gallon charge for the politically popular goal of keeping meter rates low, but we need to be wary of going too far the other way. An 80% to the meter with 20% to the per gallon charge would leave a per meter increase of $12.00, and if the 20 split is based on a very conservative usage rate of 140 gpd (the Texas conservation goal) which is 13 gpd below current usage we should be safe. Sewer rates definitely need to be raised so that waste treatment is more self supporting.

In the end, there need to be rate increases. We still need to fine tune where and how much they will be.

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