Erie County Water Authority Approves Revised Rate StructureNovember 17, 2016
The Erie County Water Authority's (ECWA) Board of Commissioners has approved a revised rate structure for their customers set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2017. As a result, the vast majority of the agency's customers will see no change in their water costs - and some will achieve savings.
The new simplified rate structure categorizes customers based on their water meter size. The first group, with meters one inch or less - 97 percent of ECWA customers - will see no change in their rates. The two remaining groups, comprised of larger meter sizes and bulk customers, will see rates change based on the size of their meter.
In addition to these changes, the Board of Commissioners has voted to eliminate the summer surcharge, creating another source of savings for ECWA customers.
"While fundamentally simplifying our rate structure, we've ensured 97 percent of our customers see no increase in their water bills if they use the same amount of water next year. Some will actually see a reduction," ECWA Chairman Earl Jann said. "The same majority of our customers will also see their infrastructure charge, which has increased annually, frozen for the next three years."
For 16 months, ECWA worked with Raftelis Financial Consultants, a national rate consultant, to review its current rate structure and cost of service model, and to survey national trends in rate design. The firm, which works closely with the American Water Works Association, made recommendations that were accepted by the Authority. The new rates are effective Jan. 1, after filing the rate consultants' recommendation with the Authority's bond trustee.
The last time the Authority conducted a rate study was in 1992. Since that time, the profile of our customers has changed dramatically, presenting the need to revisit how our customers are charged.
The Authority's capital budget - the amount devoted to infrastructure replacement - was $28 million in 2016 and is increased by $4 million to $32 million for 2017. A combination of bond refinancing and other increased efficiencies within the Authority made this possible. As a result, more funds will be committed to upgrading the distribution system - pipelines, tanks, plants, and pump stations.
"Our work to redefine our rate structure was centered around the idea that our customers come first," Jann said. "And we wanted to introduce both simplicity and fairness for their benefit."