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May 08, 2012

City proposes sewer rate increase, water rate decrease

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Charlottesville officials are proposing a slight decrease in water rates for the upcoming fiscal year, but a double-digit increase in the rate for sewer services. 
Sewer rates are increasing primarily due to a 12.1 percent increase from the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority,” said Bernard Wray, the city’s director of finance. 
Comparison of FY2012 and FY2013 wastewater expenses. (Source: City of Charlottesville)
The sewer rate would increase from $44.70 to $50.25 per 1,000 cubic feet, or a 12.4 percent increase.
To keep the increase from being higher, the city will spend just over $1 million from its rate stabilization fund. Without doing so, the proposed rates would have been $55.23 per 1,000 cubic feet. 
The average monthly sewer bill for a household will rise from $25.10 to $27.72, an increase of $2.62 or 10.44 percent. 
The increase is in part to help cover $201 million in capital improvements the RWSA will undertake in the next five years. Over two-thirds of the proposed projects are specifically to upgrade the sewer system. 
Among those is a $40 million relocation of the Rivanna Pump Station, which is currently in the city’s Riverview Park
The RWSA Board of Directors voted 4-3 in December to select a site on its nearby property at Moores Creek. The county’s representatives on the board had wanted to build a new pump station at its existing location because that would have cost only $28 million. 
At the time, Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said he believed the city should pay the full difference between the two costs. The two sides are expected to agree to a cost-share allocation by June 30. 
Comparison of FY2012 and FY2013 water expenses. (Source: City of Charlottesville)
For most of the year, the city’s composite rate for water will decrease from $43.70 per 1,000 cubic feet to $43.45, or a 0.57 percent decrease. 
“Water rates are decreasing primarily [because there was] no wholesale rate increase from the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority,” Wray said. 
Utility officials were also able to decrease rates because they propose to spend $700,000 from the city’s rate stabilization fund. 
Monthly bills for the average family, which uses 472 cubic feet per month, will fall from $24.63 to $24.51, a 0.49 percent decrease. 
During the summer months, water rates increase in order to encourage conservation. 
The RWSA budget also reflects the upgrades that will be put in place to add chloramines as a secondary disinfectant for treated drinking water starting in 2014. 
The rates will be officially introduced to City Council at their meeting on May 21, where the public will provide comments. 
Charlottesville’s rate report can be found on the website for the city’s utility office at http://www.charlottesville.org/ubo.


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