Albemarle County residents and business owners on public water and sewer will likely see increases in rates this summer and over the next few years.
Albemarle County Service Authority, which serves homes and businesses in urban Albemarle, Crozet and Scottsville, is proposing increases for water and sewer service to keep up with rising wholesale rates and to pay for capital projects.
The proposed rate increase is approximately 4.6% for typical residential customers, and will be slightly higher for multi-family and non-residential customers who use a greater volume of water.
For the average ACSA residential customer, using 3,200 gallons per month, the proposed rates would be a 4.6% percent increase in their water and sewer bill, or $2.60 per month.
If approved, the rates would take effect July 1.
The ACSA board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on its proposed rate increases at 9 a.m. June 16 over Zoom. The meeting link will be available at serviceauthority.org.
About 62% of the service authority’s total operating budget for fiscal year 2023 is purchased water and wastewater treatment from the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority.
“We expect to see average increases in water charges and sewer charges from Rivanna of approximately 7% or 8%, respectively, over each year for the next five year,” Quin Lunsford, ACSA finance director, said at the service authority’s board meeting Thursday. “So we absolutely expect to see costs continue to go up, and we feel that it’s very important that we maintain pace with those increases in charges over time to prevent, to the extent possible, large increases in ACSA customer rates.”
ACSA Executive Director Gary O’Connell said upcoming major capital projects, totaling over $200 million, are the main drivers in the Rivanna increases.
“There are a lot of big projects,” he said. “Their projects are very expensive, they’re large. It’s not just pipe. So that’s the big driver, the rest of their budget is probably more in line with where ours would be, or an average utility budget, but it’s the capital investment piece which is not unusual.”
The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board is scheduled to vote at its meeting Tuesday on increases in wholesale rates it charges the ACSA and the city of Charlottesville for urban water from $2.346 to $2.653 per 1,000 gallons and for wastewater from $2.517 to $2.664 per 1,000 gallons.
The ACSA and city also pay monthly debt service charges for water and sewer to the RWSA, which are also proposed to increase.
Overall, annual charges from Rivanna are proposed to increase approximately 10.9% for the ACSA.
The service authority’s budget includes utilizing about $5.3 million from reserves to help offset the wholesale rate increase.
Monthly bills to Albemarle service authority customers are made up of two parts: volume charges based on water and wastewater usage, and a service charge based on the meter size.
The service authority completed a rate study earlier this year, which recommended increasing its monthly service charge from $9 per month to $9.45 per month for the smallest meters, which is about 94% of its customers.
The remaining customers with larger meters will see between 37% and 67% increases in the monthly service charge, depending on the meter size. Lunsford said this will help the service authority better recoup the costs associated with maintaining the larger meters.
“The costs associated with our one inch to four inch meters have gone up considerably,” he said. “The replacement timeline of those meters is shorter than those of our residential style meters, so this change aligns us with industry standards to help make sure that the costs incurred by ACSA are offset by the folks that are using those sized meters.”
The study also recommended the authority make the multi-family and non-residential volume charge equal to single-family level two rate. Previously the volume charge for multifamily and non-residential customers was an amount slightly below level two.
“This provides a basis of consistency from this point going forward,” Lunsford said. “It will assist in budgeting for future years.”
ACSA Proposed Water/Wastewater Rates
All rates are per 1,000 gallons
Water Single-Family Residential Level 1 (0-3,000 gallons per month) $4.70 $5.05
Water Single-Family Residential Level 2 (3,001-6,000 gallons per month) $9.43 $10.14
Water Single-Family Residential Level 3 (6,001-9,000 gallons per month) $14.13 $15.19
Water Single-Family Residential Level 4 (9,001-plus gallons per month) $18.86 $20.27
Water Multi-Family/Non-residential $9.09 $10.14
Wastewater (all users, per 1,000 gallons) $9.94 $10.24
BY ALLISON WRABEL
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