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March 19, 2009

County water authority agrees to advertise rate increases for public input

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20090319-ACSA-Rates At the March 19, 2008 monthly meeting of the Board of Directors of the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA), members reached agreement on next fiscal year’s water and sewer rates to be advertised for a public hearing and they received the first presentation of the FY 2010 ACSA budget.

ACSA Executive Director, Gary Fern, recommended to the Board that the authority advertise increased rates for the fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2009.  If approved, the monthly water and sewer bill for the average residential customer in Albemarle would increase from $61.43 to $69.84, a 13.7% increase.  In FY 2007 the average monthly bill was $41.93 (see chart). 

The ACSA purchases its water and sewer services from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) who announced rate increases at their meeting last month.  Typically these wholesale rate increases from the RWSA are passed on to the retail customers.  The ACSA will hold a public hearing on the proposed rate increases on June 4, 2009.

20090319-ACSA-rates-FY2010-
Proposed ACSA water /sewer rates for FY 2010

Fern also presented the Board with his proposed FY 2010 budget which totals $32.4 million.  The budget represents a 20% increase over the budget approved for the current year with the most significant change coming in capital costs.  Capital projects are excepted to grow from $6.9 million to $12.6 million next year, or an increase of 82.2%.  The most significant capital projects are sewer related and include the North Fork Regional Pump Station (near NGIC and the future North Pointe development) and the Meadowcreek Basin Sewer Rehabilitation Project.

Excluding capital costs and debt service, the ACSA operations and maintenance budget will be 1.3% less next year.  The ACSA will reduce its full time equivalent staff in the maintenance department by one for next year, bringing the organization’s overall total from 68.6 to 67.6 employees.

John Martin (White Hall) expressed concern about Fern’s proposal to include a 2% merit pay increase for ACSA employees, an initiative that would cost $65,500.  He noted that other local government agencies were not giving any salary or merit pay increases during these difficult economic times.  Fern said his staff deserved the increase both because of their success managing an increasing number of capital projects as well as because the ACSA was not covering all the employee costs for increased medical insurance premiums. “I feel pretty strongly about the increase,” said Fern.  “I think staff deserves more than that.”

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) expressed interest in limiting budget increases to only include the costs being passed on by the RWSA.  Rick Carter (Jack Jouett) said the Board needed to keep in mind that if it really wanted to save its customers money, it would have to consider reducing expenses in other areas besides just merit pay.

The ACSA Board decided to tentatively schedule a budget work session for April 1, 2009.  The work at that meeting, if it adjusts the funding request, may impact the final water and sewer rates to be adopted in June.

Brian Wheeler

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