Sunday, December 06, 2015

City Council Enacts Plan for 55% Water Rate Increase


City Council discussed a 55% water rate increase over a five year period, approving an initial 11.5% increase in rates for 2016.  Some Council members seemed unclear as to recent water bill increases, a 48% rise in 2011 to fund the Hickory pipeline and the later addition of stormwater and pumping fees.

Four years ago City Council was clear on their motivation.

Citing a desire to encourage conservation, council decided to generate 75 percent of the revenue needed to make payments by increasing water usage rates by $1.31 per 1,000 gallons and 25 percent of the revenue needed to make payments by increasing the base usage rate by 29 percent.
Citizens responded to council's directive cutting the average usage from 8,000 gallons per month to 4,000.  Assistant City Manager/CFO Michael Dane spoke to this possibility in 2011,

As residents cut back on water use, especially as water usage restrictions have tightened under the city's drought contingency plan, Dane said, sufficient revenue to pay for the debt service payment may not be generated, which would result in the city having to impose even higher rate increases.

"That's a wild card," Dane said of "how strong the water consumer reaction is" to cutbacks and drought.
If citizens cut back usage so dramatically why is the average water bill higher than projected in 2011? 
How did the 2011 water rate increase multiply beyond what staff projected?
 

How might Council's new promises look in five years?

It's hard to have confidence in a group that can't or won't explain why the last round of fee increases hit citizens harder in the pocketbook than promised.  This is our future.

What will bills and usage look like come 2020?  The "Dane prediction" happened once. Could it happen again?

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