The Albemarle County Service Authority and the city of Charlottesville are proposing rate increases for water and sewer service to keep up with rising wholesale rates and capital projects.
The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2020 increase in wholesale rates it charges the ACSA and the city for water from $2.07 to $2.095 per 1,000 gallons and for sewer from $2.146 to $2.369 per 1,000 gallons.
The ACSA and city also pay monthly debt service charges for water and sewer to the RWSA.
Overall, annual charges from Rivanna are proposed to increase 3.4% for the city and 9% for the ACSA.
RWSA’s budget is about $36.17 million, 47% of which — or $16.9 million — is for debt service for capital projects, said RWSA Executive Director Bill Mawyer.
The RWSA’s list of upcoming capital projects includes upgrades at the Observatory and Crozet water treatment plants, renovation of the South Rivanna water treatment plant, modifying the Beaver Creek Dam and acquiring the easements for a raw water pipeline to connect the South Fork Rivanna and Ragged Mountain reservoirs, among others.
For an average Charlottesville residential customer who receives water, wastewater and natural gas service through the city, the proposed rates are projected to increase the total utility bill by $3.90 cents per month, according to city documents. The average user’s bill, including a monthly service fee, would be $115.52. The bill would be $121.38 with the stormwater management fee.
For residential customers who receive just water and wastewater service from the city, their utility bill would increase by 86 cents per month.
City Council will hold a public hearing and first reading on the proposed rates at its meeting on Monday, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 605 E. Main St. A second reading is planned for council’s June 17 meeting, and the rates would be effective July 1.
The city’s monthly service fee for water and sewer service is not changing. Last year, it established a fee system based on meter size.
The biggest increase in the city is in gas, which would rise roughly 7% compared to July 1, 2018.
“The volatility in the cost to purchase gas really drives that cost,” Finance Director Chris Cullinan said.
Gas bills are adjusted monthly based on the cost to purchase gas that month.
The fees will mostly help fund maintenance projects throughout the city. Some of the money would be used to hire a construction inspector.
Funding will also be used for a new three-person stormwater utility crew.
“The additional staff will support the existing crew to ensure that stormwater projects, including complaint response, are not delayed by lack of staff availability,” Assistant City Manager Leslie Beauregard wrote in an email.
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For the average ACSA residential customer, using 4,000 gallons per month, the advertised rates would be a 5.56% increase in their water and sewer bill, or $3.63, authority Executive Director Gary O’Connell said.
The ACSA board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on its proposed rate increases at 9 a.m. June 20 at the authority’s office at 168 Spotnap Road.
The ACSA provides services to homes and businesses in urban Albemarle, Crozet and Scottsville.
The five-year average increase in a typical ACSA residential customer bill is 4.36%.
About 94% of ACSA water customers will see a 41-cent increase in the monthly service charge, from $8.16 per month to $8.57 per month, if the authority’s proposed rates are approved. Customers also would see an increase of 54 cents per 1,000 gallons in sewer volume charge.
“We’re seeing wastewater go up mainly because of the wet weather, and we’re $1.5 million in the hole,” O’Connell said. “When we have heavy rain, it gets into the sewer system, [Rivanna] treats it and bills it on that basis, so we’ve had to project that forward.”
ACSA is seeing an increase in its budget for capital projects, including water main replacements and enhancing meter reading technology.
“The big advantage that we see is you get instant leak detection, which most of the people who have high bills have some kind of leak — either on the service line running between their house and the meter, or toilets are notorious,” O’Connell said.
He said ACSA continues to see water use go down per customer.
“In one way it’s a good sign ... but it’s also a revenue issue, because as Rivanna costs are going up and our water use is not keeping track with that, there’s a gap,” he said.