ST. ALBANS CITY — Most users of St. Albans City water and sewer services will see a roughly 5 percent increase in their combined bill beginning July 1.
Low usage users, such as one person households, will likely see a slight decline in their bills, according to city manager Dominic Cloud.
In addition, city officials plan to bring a $13.7 million maintenance project for the wastewater treatment facility before voters next March.
Debt reduction fees, previously included in the sewer bills, have been eliminated, because the debt has been paid. However, usage fees for both water and sewer are increasing. How great an increase residents will see in their bill will depend upon their usage.
“The rate effect varies from a reduction of half a percent to a 6.38 percent increase,” said Cloud. A family using 20,000 gallons per year of water and sewer capacity will see their quarterly bill increase by $14.10, or 6.35 percent. A single user consuming just 3,100 gallons per year would see a small decrease in their bill of $0.77 each quarter.
The council has approved a 3.3 percent increase in the water fund budget for fiscal year 2015, an increase of $72,500. The increase includes $24,000 for new lightning rods for the Maquam Shore facility and $5,700 for a new handheld meter reader.
To cover the increased costs, the council raised water usage fees from $0.166 cents per 100 gallons to $0.191 cents. The fixed fees charged to every user regardless of their usage will remain $52.49 per quarter.
The overall sewer budget is down by 0.4 percent, a $10,000 decrease. It’s projected to be $2.8 million starting July 1.
Because the city has paid off short term debt used to cover previous budget shortfalls, a fixed debt payment fee of $3.50 per quarter for each equivalent unit – a household is one equivalent unit – has been eliminated.
However, the council is raising the usage fee for sewer (based on water consumption) from $0.393 per 100 gallons to $0.465 per 100 gallons. The fixed sewer fee will remain $54.29 per quarter per household.
Funds raised from the increased usage fee will be placed into a capital reserve fund, explained Cloud.
The previously mentioned $13.5 million maintenance project is the result of a state-required analysis of the plant’s capital needs and is it intended to extend the plant’s useful life for another 20 years. The project does not include upgrades to the plant’s phosphorous removal capacity and funds to retire the debt would not require tax increases since the water and sewer system is created to be self sustaining.
Loan payments on the debt will be between $826,000 and $950,000 depending on whether the city can secure funds from the state’s revolving loan fund or must bond for the debt. Payments would start in fiscal year 2019.
City officials are planning to increase sewer rates gradually over the next five years, so that users are not hit with a large increase in a single year, explained Cloud. The increase is “creating capacity within the rate structure to service the debt,” he said.
The increase will be placed into a capital reserve fund that can be used to help pay for the maintenance project or kept in reserve against other potential capital needs. The city council will make that decision at a future date, he explained.